Engaging students: Multiplying binomials

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Emma White. Her topic, from Algebra: multiplying binomials.

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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

When it comes to multiplying binomials, there are various activities that can make this topic interesting and fun. Furthermore, I believe this activity will make the topic of multiplying binomials stick in the students’ heads. For those reading, note that when I refer to FOIL, this is a method that lets you multiply two binomials in a particular order. It stands for: First, Outer, Inner, and Last (for more information on this concept, “Multiplying Binomials by the FOIL Method” by Professor Dave Explains on YouTube does a wonderful job of explaining the concept. The link is down below and skip to time stamp 1:00 for binomials). One resource that makes multiplying binomials more tangible is “FOIL Bingo”. In the resource provided below, a teacher took the time to create various bingo cards with two binomials in each square. The students would have to solve the binomials and when the teacher calls out the product of the binomials, the students would cover that spot and so forth. It is like regular bingo where you want to get a certain amount in a row, blackout the card, get a certain design, etc. The choice is up to the teacher. Another way to do this game (if you’re wanting to conserve time), if give the students a bingo sheet for homework the day before or even as an entry ticket the day of. Then the student could solve the binomials prior to playing the game and will have the answers in front of them instead of having to wait for each student to solve the problem during the game. This could eliminate the risk of going too slow and having students get bored or going too fast and having those who need more time to solve left behind. Lastly, the layout provided in Excel can be altered. Therefore, you could change the values if you wanted to do this activity with your class more than once.

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What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

Around 600-700 AD, the Hindu mathematicians had taken the Babylonia methods of approaching equations a step further when it came to introducing unknowns, sometimes more than one unknown in a single problem. It wasn’t until the Medieval times did the Islamic mathematicians discuss the variable x and how important it was. This is when the binomials theorems evolved. Furthermore, the Islamic mathematicians were able to use many operations on polynomials and soon binomials, such as multiplication, division, finding roots, and more! One thing I find highly fascinating is the Islamic mathematicians advanced the study of algebra, which “flourished during the golden age”. Evermore so, private collections were found in a lost Islamic library, which was destroyed in the 13th Century. These private collections “altered the course of mathematics.” An example of a concept that was furthered studied was the Fibonacci sequence (which is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating things in math history and how it relates to the world and finding mathematics around us, but that is for another time…). All I can say is the Babylonians, the Hindu and Islamic mathematicians were a driven and mathematically inclined people and it blows my mind how far these people brought the world of mathematics.

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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

When it comes to finding ways to use technology for multiplying binomials, I truly believe visuals are essential. I’m a little biased since I was introduced to a way of multiply binomials just last semester in one of my teaching classes and it BLEW MY MIND. I wish I knew how to do this earlier in high school!  Essentially, this online source allows the student to use algebra tiles without having them physically in front of them. Therefore, they can use this source if they have technology capable of doing so (such as a phone, computer, tablet, etc.). This source is visual and easy for students to understand and manipulate. The student starts by placing the corresponding tiles for one binomial across the top like a table (would be 4 x-tiles and 2 1-tiles). Along the left side, the other binomial is represented (long ways/up-and-down). You then multiply corresponding values and where they meet in the open area (example: where an x-tile and another x-tile meet, it would become since x times x is ). Algebra tiles can also be used for upcoming topics the students would learn, such as completing the square. For a student who may have trouble grasping the idea of multiplying binomials and struggling to understand the concept of abstracts, using algebra tiles will hopefully help with the misunderstandings and confusion. All I’m saying is if this concept of online algebra tiles assisted a college student and made the topic MUCH easier to visualize and explain, I’m sure most high school students will find the use of technology in their math class interesting. Who knows, some students may come to love math more because of it!

Reference(s):

“Multiplying Binomials by the FOIL Method” by Professor Dave Explains:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTC7RIwdZcE

“FOIL Bingo”: http://www.teachforever.com/2009/03/two-review-games-multiplying.html

“FOIL Bingo” Direct Link to Download: http://teachforever.googlepages.com/bingoalg1foil.xls

“History of Polynomials”: https://polynomialshistory.weebly.com/history.html

“How modern mathematics emerged from a lost Islamic libray”: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20201204-lost-islamic-library-maths

Algebra Tiles: https://technology.cpm.org/general/tiles/

Algebra Tiles Example for Multiplying Binomials: https://technology.cpm.org/general/tiles/?tiledata=b5____gWaRx__boy__aabuEq3abvMq3abwUq3abx_q3aby5q3auAbq2auAHq2auBFq2aatdswaatdtEautcveautcvKautcwcautcuMautcxaautcwIauA9q2aeuEssaevMssaewUssaeuEtAaevMtAaewUtAaex_tAaex_ssaey6ssaey6tAaaAessaaAetAaaAKtAaaAKssaaBctAaaBcssaaBItAaaBIssabuEuIabwUuIabx_uIaby5uIabvMuIabuEvaabwUvaabx_vaaby5vaabvMvaaby4v8abx-v8abwTv8abuDv8abuDvGabwTvGabx-vGaby4vGabvLvGabvLv8aby3w6abx+w6abwSw6abuCw6abuCwEabwSwEabx+wEaby3wEabvKwEabvKw6auAdvaauAcvGauAcv8auAbwEauAbw6auAduIauAHw6auAHwEauAIv8auAIvGauAJvaauAJuIauA9w6auA9wEauBav8auBavGauBbvaauBbuIauBGw6auBGwEauBHv8auBHvGauBIvaauBIuIhFCounting%20up%20the%20%22like%20terms%22%2C%20we%20get%3A%0A%0A10%20x%5E2%27s%0A38%20x%27s%0A24%201%27s%0A%0AFor%20an%20answer%20of%3A%0A%0A10x%5E2%20%2B%2038x%20%2B%2024__CwtChF2x%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%2B%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A6__tXsohF%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%205x%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%2B%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%204%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20__uzrQ

Engaging students: Graphs of linear equations

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Morgan Mayfield. His topic, from Algebra: graphs of linear equations.

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What interesting (i.e., uncontrived) word problems using this topic can your students do now? (You may find resources such as http://www.spacemath.nasa.gov to be very helpful in this regard; feel free to suggest others.)

Given a rather vague statement such as ”Graphs of Linear Equations”, I was unsure if it meant only the technique of analyzing graphs or being able to have the ability to build a graph of a linear equation. In A1, I attempt to rely on analysis. Here are the problems I encountered on Space Math @ NASA:

  • Problem 1 – Calculate the Rate corresponding to the speed of the galaxies in the Hubble Diagram. (Called the Hubble Constant, it is a measure of how fast the universe is expanding).
  • Problem 2 – Calculate the rate of sunspot number change between the indicated years.

Space Math has these problems listed as “Finding the slope of a linear graph”, the two key phrases being “Finding the slope” and “linear graph”. The students must be able to do both. Students are given three sets of graphical data to analyze (shown below). I am not an expert in any of these fields, but I suspect these graphs were made using real data scientists collected. The Space Math team gave students two points on the data to aid in calculations. What makes these graphs interesting is the fact that they are messy, but real compared to a graph of a linear equation in a classroom. These graphs can be analyzed further than the problems Space Math offered. Students could see how that data can be collected and put into a scatterplot, like in the case of graph 2, and have an approximately linear correlation. Sadly, most things don’t follow a neat model of what we see in our math class, yet we can still derive meaning from real-world phenomena because of what we learn in math class. Scientists use their understanding of graphs of linear equations and linear models to analyze data and come to conclusions about our real-world environment. In graph 2, a scientist would clearly see that there is a linear proportional relationship between the speed and distance from the Hubble space telescope of a galaxy, or more meaningfully understood as a rate, 76 km/sec/mpc. Now, if a scientist encountered a new galaxy, they could determine an approximate speed or distance of the galaxy given the other variable.

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How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

Students will formalize learning about graphing linear function in Algebra I. Graphs of linear equations are important in solving linear inequalities in two variables, solving systems of linear inequalities, solving systems of linear equations, and solving systems of equations involving linear and nonlinear equations which are all topics in Algebra I and II. Solving systems can be done algebraically, but graphing systems give students a more concrete way in finding a solution and is an excellent way of conveying information to others. If a student ever found themself in a business class, they may be asked to make “business decisions” on a product to buy. If I were the student explaining my decision to my teacher and potential “investors”, I would be making a graph of linear systems to help explain my “business decisions”. Generally, a business class would also introduce “Supply and Demand” graphs, where the solution is called the “equilibrium”. Many graphs in an intro class depict supply and demand as a system of linear equations.

In the high school sciences, a student will come across many linear equations. Students in a regular physics course and an AP physics course will come across simplified distance vs. time graphs to represent velocity, velocity vs. time graphs to represent acceleration, and force vs. distance graphs to represent work and energy (khan academy link included below). Note, just because many of the examples used in a physics class are graphs of linear equations, real life rarely works out like this.

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How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

We are shown data daily that our climate is changing fast through infographics on social media, posters set up by environmentalists, and news broadcasting. Climate change is one of the most important issues that society faces today and is on the collective consciousness of my generation as we have already seen the early consequences of climate change. Climate change, like most real-world data collecting does not always follow a good linear fit or any other specific fit with 100% accurately. However, a way scientists and media want to convey a message to us is to overlay a “trend line” or a “line of best fit” over the graphed data. Looking at the examples below, we can clearly understand that average global temperatures have been on the rise since 1880 despite fluctuations year-to-year and comparisons to the expected average global temperature. The same graph also gives insight on how the same data can also be cherrypicked to fit another person’s agenda. From 1998 – 2012, the rate of change, represented by a line, is lower than both 1970 – 1984 and 1984 – 1998. In fact, the rate is dramatically lower, thus climate change is no more! Not so, this period of slowing down doesn’t immediately refute the notion of climate change but could be construed as so. Actually, in the NOAA article linked below and its corresponding graph actually finds that we were using dated techniques that led to underestimates and concluded that the IPCC was wrong in it’s original analysis of 1998-2012 and that the trend was actually getting worse, indicated by the trend line on the second graph, as the global temperature departed from the long-term average.

Look at how much information could be construed by a few linear functions represented on a graph and some given rate of changes.

 

 

References:

(or Problem 226 from https://spacemath.gsfc.nasa.gov/algebra1.html)

https://d1yqpar94jqbqm.cloudfront.net/documents/Gateway5A1VAChart.pdf (or grade 5 – Algebra II Vertical Alignment https://www.texasgateway.org/resource/vertical-alignment-charts-revised-mathematics-teks)

https://bim.easyaccessmaterials.com/index.php?location_user=cchs

https://www.khanacademy.org/science/in-in-class11th-physics/in-in-class11th-physics-work-energy-and-power/in-in-class11-introduction-to-work/a/work-ap-physics-1

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/news/recent-global-surface-warming-hiatus

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/did-global-warming-stop-1998

Engaging students: Finding the slope of a line

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place. I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course). This student submission again comes from my former student Bri Del Pozzo. Her topic, from Algebra: finding the slope of a line. green line How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic? As a teacher I would likely introduce a very popular and well-received project to my students, the project where students draw an angular image on a graph and then calculate the slope of 20 lines from their image. I love this project because it allows students to connect mathematics to art and encourages them to express themselves creatively. As a precursor to the project, I would introduce students to the types of slopes and their characteristics using a tool that I learned in my Algebra Class, Mr. Slope Guy (pictured below).
In the image the positive slope is indicated by the left eyebrow and above the plus-sign eye, the negative slope is the right eyebrow by the negative sign eye, the nose represents the undefined slope and is denoted by a vertical line and a “u” for undefined, and the mouth represents the zero-slope shown by a horizontal line and two zeros. The students could use this resource while completing their projects to serve as a reminder of the types of slopes. The main focus of the project, however, would focus on the process of how to find slope given two points on a line. (This project is based on an example from: https://kidcourses.com/slope/ #5) green line How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?             In the grade 7 TEKS for mathematics, students are expected to “represent linear relationships using verbal descriptions, tables, graphs, and equations that simplify to the form .” This creates a foundation for finding the slope of a line by introducing students to multiple representations of what slope looks like. When discussing how to find the slope of a line, I think that the tabular representation is a great tool for students to visualize the meaning behind slope. In seventh grade math, students were able to conceptualize slope without using the formula. When finding slope in early algebra, I would encourage students to look at graphs from a new lens, noticing features such as the sign of the line, the steepness of the line, the difference in x’s and y’s at different points on the line, and the slope itself. When looking at a table, I would ask students to calculate the difference in x’s and y’s as they go down the rows of the table and have them compare those numbers to those that they saw in the graph. green line How has this topic appeared in the news?             As many of us know, over the past 18 months or so, the number of Covid-19 Cases in the United States has been on the rise. For a long time, the total number of cases in the United States was growing exponentially and very quickly. As more research has been done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we have learned that there is a way to flatten the curve and reduce the number of daily cases. This initiative to flatten the curve has resulted in the growth of cases to resemble liner growth rather than exponential growth. As mathematicians, we can calculate the slope of the line that represents the (linear) growth of Covid-19 cases per day. We can make comparisons between growth rates in different states and use that data to make predictions about effectiveness of Covid-19 prevention procedures.

Engaging students: Equations of two variables

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Taylor Bigelow. Her topic, from Algebra: equations of two variables.

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What interesting (i.e., uncontrived) word problems using this topic can your students do now?

This topic is perfect for word problems, you can make a lot of interesting word problems using 2 variables. Here are some examples of word problems.

● Sam is mowing lawns for money over the summer. They charge $10 an hour. They have a family discount of 20% per hour. If they mow non-family members laws for 10 hours this week and mowed family members laws for 3 hours, how much money did they make this week?
○ 10N+8F=?
○ N=10 and F=3
○ 10(10)+8(3)=124
○ So they made $124

● John is buying blue and yellow gummy bears at the store. He has $20 to spend on candy. Blue gummy bears come in bags of 20 for $1 each, and Yellow gummy bears come in bags of 50 for $3 each. He knows we want exactly 100 Blue gummy bears. How many yellow gummy bears can he buy?
○ B=Blue gummy Bears Y=Yellow gummy Bears
○ 20=B+Y
○ B= 100/20= $5 for 100 gummy bears
○ 20= 5+Y so Y=$15
○ With $15 he can buy 5 bags of yellow gummy bears. 5*50=250. So he can buy
250 yellow gummy bears

● Alex is building a fence for her backyard. She is building it in a rectangular shape, and she wants the length of the fence to be twice as long as the width of the fence. If the area of her backyard is 200 feet, how long is the width, and how long is the length?
○ L=length W=width
○ L*W=200
○ L=2W
○ 2W*W=200
○ 2W^2=200
○ W^2=100
○ W=10
○ So L=2(10)=20

These are just 3 examples I came up with on the spot. You can create a lot more, and
with a variety of difficulties.

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How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?
This topic builds on knowledge from elementary school and extends into almost all future math. It starts with kids understanding multiplication and addition, then to them being introduced to solving equations in middle school, and then is heavily used in high school math classes, and any math class that requires basic algebra skills in the future. I looked through some of the teks to find references to two-variable equations and found it only referenced in algebra 1 and 2. I also went back through 6th, 7th, and 8th grade and found where they were using one-variable equations since that is the prior knowledge that they are building onto with two-variable equations.

● 6th Grade
○ (9) Expressions, equations, and relationships. The student applies mathematical
process standards to use equations and inequalities to represent situations. The
student is expected to:
■ (A) write one-variable, one-step equations and inequalities to represent
constraints or conditions within problems;
■ (B) represent solutions for one-variable, one-step equations and
inequalities on number lines; and
■ (C) write corresponding real-world problems given one-variable,
one-step equations or inequalities.
○ (10) Expressions, equations, and relationships. The student applies
mathematical process standards to use equations and inequalities to solve
problems. The student is expected to:
■ (A) model and solve one-variable, one-step equations and inequalities
that represent problems, including geometric concepts; and
■ (B) determine if the given value(s) make(s) one-variable, one-step
equations or inequalities true.
● 7th Grade
○ (10) Expressions, equations, and relationships. The student applies
mathematical process standards to use one-variable equations and inequalities
to represent situations. The student is expected to:
■ (A) write one-variable, two-step equations and inequalities to represent
constraints or conditions within problems;
■ (B) represent solutions for one-variable, two-step equations and
inequalities on number lines; and
■ (C) write a corresponding real-world problem given a one-variable,
two-step equation or inequality.
○ (11) Expressions, equations, and relationships. The student applies
mathematical process standards to solve one-variable equations and inequalities.
The student is expected to:
■ (A) model and solve one-variable, two-step equations and inequalities;
■ (B) determine if the given value(s) make(s) one-variable, two-step
equations and inequalities true
● 8th Grade
○ Expressions, equations, and relationships. The student applies mathematical
process standards to use one-variable equations or inequalities in problem
situations. The student is expected to:
■ (A) write one-variable equations or inequalities with variables on both
sides that represent problems using rational number coefficients and
constants;
■ (B) write a corresponding real-world problem when given a
one-variable equation or inequality with variables on both sides of the
equal sign using rational number coefficients and constants;
■ (C) model and solve one-variable equations with variables on both
sides of the equal sign that represent mathematical and real-world
problems using rational number coefficients and constants
● Algebra 1
○ (2) Linear functions, equations, and inequalities. The student applies the
mathematical process standards when using properties of linear functions to
write and represent in multiple ways, with and without technology, linear
equations, inequalities, and systems of equations. The student is expected to:
■ (B) write linear equations in two variables in various forms, including y
= mx + b, Ax + By = C, and y – y1 = m (x – x1 ), given one point and the
slope and given two points;
■ (C) write linear equations in two variables given a table of values, a
graph, and a verbal description;
■ (H) write linear inequalities in two variables given a table of values, a
graph, and a verbal description
○ (3) Linear functions, equations, and inequalities. The student applies the
mathematical process standards when using graphs of linear functions, key
features, and related transformations to represent in multiple ways and solve,
with and without technology, equations, inequalities, and systems of equations.
The student is expected to:
■ (D) graph the solution set of linear inequalities in two variables on the
coordinate plane;
■ (F) graph systems of two linear equations in two variables on the
coordinate plane and determine the solutions if they exist;
■ (G) estimate graphically the solutions to systems of two linear
equations with two variables in real-world problems; and
■ (H) graph the solution set of systems of two linear inequalities in two
variables on the coordinate plane.
○ (5) Linear functions, equations, and inequalities. The student applies the
mathematical process standards to solve, with and without technology, linear
equations and evaluate the reasonableness of their solutions. The student is
expected to:
■ (C) solve systems of two linear equations with two variables for
mathematical and real-world problems.
● Algebra 2
○ (3) Systems of equations and inequalities. The student applies mathematical
processes to formulate systems of equations and inequalities, use a variety of
methods to solve, and analyze reasonableness of solutions. The student is
expected to:
■ (C) solve, algebraically, systems of two equations in two variables
consisting of a linear equation and a quadratic equation;
■ (D) determine the reasonableness of solutions to systems of a linear
equation and a quadratic equation in two variables;
■ (E) formulate systems of at least two linear inequalities in two variables;
■ (F) solve systems of two or more linear inequalities in two variables; and
■ (G) determine possible solutions in the solution set of systems of two or
more linear inequalities in two variables.

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What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

Algebra is a really old concept, dating back almost 4 thousand years ago. (So kids have been doing the same thing in classes for millennia.) The Babylonians were the first to use algebra in the 1900s. The Egyptians also used algebra around the same time, but they focused on linear algebra, while the Babylonians did quadratic and cubic equations. The ancient Greeks used geometric algebra around 300 BC. They solved algebra equations using geometry, and their methods are very different from the ones we use today. A thousand years later, around 800 AD, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi became the father of modern algebra. The middle east used Arabic numerals (the numbers 0-9 which we still use today). The word algorithm is even derived from his name. Algebra started thousands of years ago to solve problems and has been developed over time into what it is today.

Citations:
https://www.mathtutordvd.com/public/Who-Invented-Algebra.cfm
https://texreg.sos.state.tx.us/public/readtac$ext.ViewTAC?tac_view=4&ti=19&pt=2&ch=111

Engaging students: The quadratic formula

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Sydney Araujo. Her topic, from Algebra: the quadratic formula.

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D4. What are the contributions of various cultures to this topic?

The quadratic formula can be traced all the way back to the Ancient Egyptians. The ancient Egyptians knew how to calculate the area of different shapes but did not know how to calculate the length of the sides of a shape. Moving forward, it is speculated that the Babylonians developed the completing the square method to solve problems involving areas. The Babylonians used a more similar number system to the one we use today. Instead, they used hexagesimal which made addition and multiplication easier. We can also see a similar method used by the Chinese around the same time. Pythagoras and Euclid were some of the first to attempt to find a more general formula to solve quadratic equations, both using a geometric approach. They’re ideas differ slightly, Pythagoras observed that the value of a square root is not always an integer but he refused to allow for proportions that were not rational. Whereas Euclid proposed that irrational square roots are also possible. At the time, the ancient Greeks did not use the same number system that we use, so it was impossible to calculate square roots by hand. It wasn’t until the Indian mathematician, Brahmagupta, who came up with the solution to the quadratic formula. This is because Indian mathematics used the decimal system as well as zero which had a massive advantage over the Egyptians and Greeks. Brahmagupta was the one that recognized that there are two roots in the solution to the quadratic equation and described the quadratic formula.

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A2. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

One of my fondest high school memories is from my junior year physics class. It was the famous Punkin’ Chunkin’ project. Students were put in groups and asked to build a trebuchet or catapult that could launch a pumpkin across a field. The only requirement was for the device to work, the distance was just fun extra credit. For this project we had to predict the pumpkins trajectory using different variables like the pumpkin’s weight, force, momentum, etc. However, by the time we were juniors, we had either taken Algebra 2 or were currently in it. So, our physics and algebra teacher were working together so that by the time this project came around we were working on quadratic equations in algebra. As the shape of the trajectory of a pumpkin was a parabola. Because of this experience, I can create an activity or even a similar project with the physics teacher. This way students see the different applications of quadratic equations and have a tangible real world math experience.

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B2. How does this topic extend what your students should have learned in previous courses?

As the quadratic formula is taught in Algebra 1, students have only seen linear equations prior to that point. Students recognize that when they are solving these equations, they are looking for one solution, no solution, or infinitely many solutions. The one solution being a singular ordered pair and then they are done. What students then must extend on when they reach quadratic equations, and the quadratic formula is that they’re now looking for two separate solutions. So, at this point they know how to solve for x and understand inverses which is important when it comes to quadratic equations. During the solving process of a quadratic equation, students may have to take the square root of both sides of the equation which will give you a plus or minus sign in front of the square root. Which makes the connection on why there are two solutions to a quadratic equation and the quadratic formula, because a parabola has two roots.

Works Cited:

Brahambhatt, Rupendra. “Quadratic Formula: What, Why, and How It Changed Mathematics.” Interesting Engineering, Interesting Engineering, 16 July 2021, interestingengineering.com/quadratic-formula-what-why-and-how-it-changed-mathematics.

Engaging students: Powers and exponents

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Ashlyn Farley. Her topic, from Pre-Algebra: powers and exponents.

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One class activity that will engage students while reviewing and/or teaching Exponent/Power concepts is “Marshmallow and Toothpicks.” This activity can be used for teaching the basic of exponents, as well as exponent laws. The idea is that the toothpicks are different colors, and the different colors represent different bases, thus the same color means it’s the same base. The marshmallows represent the exponent, i.e. the number of times the student needs to multiply the base. By following a worksheet of questions, the students should be able to solve exponent problems physically, visually, and abstractly. This activity, I believe, is best done with partners or groups so that the students can discuss how they think the exponents/exponent laws work. After the activity, the students are also able to eat their marshmallows, which encourages the students to participate and complete their work.

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Exponents are used in functions, equations, and expressions throughout math, thus having a deep understanding of exponents and their laws is very important. By fully mastering exponents and exponent laws, the students will be able to more easily grasp more difficult material that uses these concepts. Some specific ideas that use exponents and/or exponent laws in future math courses are: multiplying polynomials, finding the volume and surface area of prisms and cylinders, as well as computing the composition of two functions. Exponents are also used in many other situations than just math, such as in science or even in careers. Some careers that consistently use exponents and/or exponent laws are: Bankers, Computer Programmers, Mechanics, Plumbers, and many more.

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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

An easy way to introduce students who have never seen exponents or exponential growth before is to use a graphing calculator. By plugging in an exponential function into the calculator and viewing the graph and zooming out, students can easily see how quickly numbers start to get The website Legends of Learning focuses on creating educational games for students in kindergarten through 9th grade. One game that goes over exponents, as well as the exponent laws, is Expodyssey. This game has the students solve problems to “fix” a spaceship to get back to Earth. The problems are built upon each other, so it starts by having the student answer what an exponent is, then what multiplying two exponents same base is, and keeps building from there. Each concept has multiple problems to be solved before moving on so that the students can show their mastery of the content. I believe that this game also helps improve cognitive skills by having the students do various activities simultaneously, such as calculating, reading, maneuvering elements and/or filling answers as required.

References:
Blog: Number Dyslexia
Link: https://numberdyslexia.com/top-7-games-for-understanding-math-exponents/

Engaging students: Computing the determinant of a matrix

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Brendan Gunnoe. His topic: computing the determinant of a matrix.

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How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

When students learn about the determinant of a matrix, they only learn about computing it and don’t learn about the applications of the determinant or what they signify. One interesting use of the determinant is finding the eigenvectors of a matrix. A visual understanding of what an eigenvector is can be done by showing what a matrix does to the any generic vector, and what it does to the eigenvectors. For a generic vector that is different from an eigenvector, the matrix knocks the vector off the span of the original vector. What makes an eigenvector special is the fact that the matrix transformation keeps the eigenvector on its span but rescales said eigenvector by its eigenvalue. For example, take the matrix

\left[ \begin{array}{cc} 5 & 3 \\ 3 & 5 \end{array} \right].

This matrix’s eigenvectors are \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 1 \end{array} \right] and \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ -1 \end{array} \right] with eigenvalues 8 and 2 respectively. That is,

\left[ \begin{array}{cc} 5 & 3 \\ 3 & 5 \end{array} \right] \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 1 \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{c} 8 \\ 8 \end{array} \right] = 8 \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 1 \end{array} \right]

and

\left[ \begin{array}{cc} 5 & 3 \\ 3 & 5 \end{array} \right] \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ -1 \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{c} 2 \\ -2 \end{array} \right] = 2 \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ -1 \end{array} \right].

Eigenvectors have many useful applications in future math and science classes including electronics, linear algebra, differential equations and mechanical engineering.

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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic? Note: It’s not enough to say “such-and-such is a great website”; you need to explain in some detail why it’s a great website.

The YouTube channel 3Blue1Brown has a fantastic video on determinates and linear transformations. Grant, the channel owner, uses animations to visualize what a matrix transformation does to the plane . He starts by showing what a transformation does to a single square then shows why the change of change of that one area shows what happens to the area of any region. He also gives multiple explanations for what a negative determinate means in terms of orientation of the axes. Then he explains what happens when the determinate is 0. All of this is already extremely useful for understanding what a 2×2 matrix does, but Grant continues and extends all the same things for 3×3 transformations. Lastly, Grant gives a few explanations on why the formula for the determinate is what it is and poses a small puzzle for the viewer to contemplate. This video explains what and why we use determinates and how they can be useful all while showing pleasing visual examples and other explanations.

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What interesting word problems using this topic can your students do now?

Using determinates to see if a set of vectors is a basis.

The determinant can tell you when a matrix squishes space into a lower dimensional space like a line or a plane. Thus, taking the determinate of a matrix composed of a set of vectors tells you if those vectors are a basis for the matrix’s dimension.

Part 1. A 3D printer’s axes are set up in such a way that the print head can only travel in the direction \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 1 \end{array} \right] and \left[ \begin{array}{c} -1 \\ 1 \end{array} \right]. Assume that the place where the print head is right now is the origin \left[ \begin{array}{c} 0 \\ 0 \end{array} \right]. Can you move the print head to the location \left[ \begin{array}{c} x \\ y \end{array} \right] and \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ -1 \end{array} \right] by only moving in the directions of \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 1 \end{array} \right] and \left[ \begin{array}{c} -1 \\ 1 \end{array} \right]?

Hint: Try to solve \left[ \begin{array}{cc} 1 & -1 \\ 1 & 1 \end{array} \right] \left[ \begin{array}{c} a \\ b \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{c} x \\ y \end{array} \right] . Does this always have a solution \left[ \begin{array}{c} a \\ b \end{array} \right]?

Part 2. Next time you turn on your 3D printer, one of the motor’s broke and now the print head can only move in the direction of \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 0 \end{array} \right]. Assume that the place where the print head is right now is the origin \left[ \begin{array}{c} 0 \\ 0 \end{array} \right]. Can you move the print head to the location  by only moving in the direction of \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 0 \end{array} \right]?

Hint: Try to solve \left[ \begin{array}{cc} 1 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 \end{array} \right] \left[ \begin{array}{c} a \\ b \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{c} x \\ y \end{array} \right] . Does this always have a solution \left[ \begin{array}{c} a \\ b \end{array} \right]?

Part 3. You buy a new 3D printer that it can move in all three directions: up/down, left/right, forward/backwards. When you test out the movement of the print head, you see that each axis moves in the directions of \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 0 \\ 0 \end{array} \right], \left[ \begin{array}{c} 0 \\ 1 \\ 0 \end{array} \right], and \left[ \begin{array}{c} 0 \\ 0 \\ 1 \end{array} \right]. Can you use your new 3D printer to go to any location \left[ \begin{array}{c} x \\ y \\ z \end{array} \right], inside the printing space?

Hint: Think about solving \left[ \begin{array}{ccc} 1 & 0 & 0 \\ 0 & 1 & 0 \\ 0 & 0 & 1 \end{array} \right] \left[ \begin{array}{c} a \\ b \\ c \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{c} x \\ y \\ z \end{array} \right] . Does this always have a solution \left[ \begin{array}{c} a \\ b \\ c \end{array} \right]? How do you know?

Part 4. Your little sibling messed around with your new 3D printer and now it moves in the directions \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 0 \\ 1 \end{array} \right], \left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 1 \\ 0 \end{array} \right], and \left[ \begin{array}{c} 2 \\ 1 \\ 1 \end{array} \right]. Is your 3D printer able to get to some point \left[ \begin{array}{c} x \\ y \\ z \end{array} \right] inside the printing space as is, or do you need to fix your printer?

Hint: Think about solving \left[ \begin{array}{ccc} 1 & 1 & 2 \\ 0 & 1 & 1 \\ 1 & 0 & 1 \end{array} \right] \left[ \begin{array}{c} a \\ b \\ c \end{array} \right] = \left[ \begin{array}{c} x \\ y \\ z \end{array} \right]. Does this always have a solution \left[ \begin{array}{c} a \\ b \\ c \end{array} \right]? How do you know?

Engaging students: Using a recursively defined sequence

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Enrique Alegria. His topic, from Precalculus: using a recursively defined sequence.

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How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

            Recursion is heavily emphasized within the branches of computer science. The technique can be used more than just in arithmetic and geometric sequences for finding the next term. Within computer science, recursion techniques can be utilized for sorting algorithms. The content will be able to transfer easily. Instead of finding the previous term to use to find the current term, within sorting algorithms, a set of numbers is chunked into smaller and smaller sets such that the original set of numbers becomes sorted.

            We can take a deeper look at Merge Sort which is a recursive sorting algorithm. What occurs is the set of numbers repeatedly gets cut in half until there is only one element in the list. From there the elements are sorted in increasing order. Traversing back into the original size of the list with all of the elements contained except the final output is the list in increasing order.

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Students can inspect the algorithm visually and need not to understand the implementation of code to comprehend the functionality of recursion. Guiding the students towards the smallest part of the process which is the single element and from there rearranging the elements of the list.

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How has this topic appeared in high culture (art, classical music, theatre, etc.)?

            Recursively defined sequences influenced a renowned artist who is M.C. Escher. The concept of a sequence beginning at one point and continuing infinitely is how Escher exhibits recursion. Escher challenges the viewer of his work to determine the patterns from the artistic series.

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For example, when observing the piece Drawing Hands, a student can predict what the ‘base case’ of the artwork would be followed by the next steps of the drawing. The spectator of this piece can break it apart into smaller and smaller partitions of the whole. And once they reach a starting point, they can put together the whole picture once again.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is twobirds.png

Similarly, students can view this piece titled Two Birds to follow the patterns. Without saying the name of the piece students can again predict the base case and determine how recursion techniques would be used for this sequence. Students can begin to learn how to think of how recursively defined sequences are applied through visual representations of M.C. Escher’s artwork.

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How can technology be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

            Technology can be used to effectively engage students with recursion by showcasing the YouTube video “Recursion: The Music Videos of Michel Gondry” by Polyphonic. Through this video, students can compare recursively defined sequences to music they listen to. The video starts with singular notes and then repeating the notes to create a rhythm. Compiling the initial sounds into something familiar through loops of samples and sound bites. This video goes into the repetitive patterns of the small chunks of sound are shown through visual representations with the music videos by Michel Gondry. In the music video “Star Guitar” by The Chemical Brothers, the video starts off with the listener on a train ride going through a landscape. Slowly patterns emerge as buildings uniquely correspond to the notes and rhythms within the song. With this YouTube video students obtain a great introduction to recursion and hopefully continue to find patterns of recursion to music they listen to in the future.

References

Greenberg I., Xu D., Kumar D. (2013) Drawing with Recursion. In: Processing. Apress, Berkeley, CA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4302-4465-3_8

Miller, B., & Ranum, D. (2020). 6.11. The Merge Sort — Problem Solving with Algorithms and Data Structures. Runestone.academy. https://runestone.academy/runestone/books/published/pythonds/SortSearch/TheMergeSort.html.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rfezNHtwhg

Engaging students: Powers and exponents

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Austin Stone. His topic, from Pre-Algebra: powers and exponents.

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What interesting (i.e., uncontrived) word problems using this topic can your students do now?

“The number of people who are infected with COVID-19 can double each day. If it does double every day, and one person was infected on day 0, how many people would be infected after 20 days?” This problem can be a current real-life word problem that all students can relate to given the times we are in. This problem would be a good introductory for students to see how quickly numbers can get when using exponents. This would be an engaging introductory to exponents and will get the students interested because they can easily see that this can be used in current problems facing the world. This problem could also work later in Algebra if you ask how many days it would take to infect “blank” amount of people. This makes the question more of a challenge because they would have to solve for “x” (days) which is the exponent.

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How has this topic appeared in the news?

This topic has been the news so far in 2020 if we are being honest. COVID-19 is a virus that has an exponential infection rate, just like any virus. When talking about COVID-19, news reporters and doctors usually use graphs to depict the infection rate. These graphs start off small but then grow exponentially until it slows down due to either people being more aware of their hygiene habits and/or the human immune system getting more familiar with the virus. Knowing how exponents work helps people better understand the seriousness of viruses such as COVID-19 and the everlasting impact it can have on the world. Doctors study what are the best ways to slow down the exponential growth so that a limited number of people contract and potentially die from the virus. To do this, they predict the exponential growth keeping in mind the regulations that may be enforced. Whatever regulation(s) slow down the virus the most are the ones that they try to enforce.

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How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

An easy way to introduce students who have never seen exponents or exponential growth before is to use a graphing calculator. By plugging in an exponential function into the calculator and viewing the graph and zooming out, students can easily see how quickly numbers start to get massively large. A teacher can set this up by giving the students a problem to think about such as, “how many people would be infected with the virus after “blank” amount of day?” Students then could guess what they believe it would be. After revealing the graph and the actual number, students will probably be surprised at how big the number is in just a short amount of time. After that, the teacher could show a video on YouTube about exponential growth and/or infection rates of viruses and how quickly a small virus can turn into a pandemic. This also has very current real-world applications.

Reference: https://www.osfhealthcare.org/blog/superspreaders-these-factors-affect-how-fast-covid-19-can-spread/