Monday, April 29, 2013

Quadratic Catapult!

My students impressed me SO MUCH today!  I am just so excited by the project we're working on and how well they've done so far.

I gave my students a table of available supplies and a budget of $50.  At the end of last week, they previewed this materials list and I showed them a Powerpoint of a variety of photos of catapults constructed from these materials.  I wanted them to do their own research, but barring me checking out mobile labs and supervising web browsing, that wasn't going to happen in school.  Too many of my students don't have internet access at home for me to assign anything for homework that requires the internet.  My pre-selected photos actually worked well because it gave us an opportunity to talk about how certain designs worked. 

Cost for one
Plastic Spoon

Masking Tape
3 feet

Rubber Band

Popsicle Stick

Small Cup

Cardboard (approximately 8”x10”)

Wooden Clothespin

Wooden Pencil

Staple Remover

Paper Clip

Binder Clip



They started off by spending a minimum of 10 minutes planning their design before I let them "purchase" materials.  Construction was full of redesigns, and all but one group worked together well to solve the challenges they faced.  By the end of the hour we spent on the project today, all groups had a working model that they had tested at least a few times.  (Photos to come)

For those of you wondering, the approximate teacher cost for this project (for 50 students in groups of 3 or 4) was about $15, though you likely have most of the materials in your classroom already.  Substitutions are certainly possible.  No groups used a staple remover.  Few chose pencils, paper clips, cups, and clothespins.  I did want to have a large enough variety of materials that students wouldn't recreate the same design in each group.  I also had several students ask to bring in materials but I didn't allow them to do so.  I could have, and it would have increased variety, but I wanted to keep the playing field level for this project. 

One thing to note: I made a model at home just to test out my idea.  It sent the projectile about 5 feet, perfect for a classroom project.  My awesome students, however, have sent their beans flying 40+ feet (from one end of the room to the other).  It was organized chaos in my room today, but all in the name of learning.  So, if you're at all concerned about safety or the discretion that your students would use during this project, it might be good to test outdoors.  Of course, it's pouring rain for three days here, so we're testing inside and making it work.  I actually had the librarian offer her space, too, so I think we're going to try to be really quiet while we test tomorrow!

Tomorrow, the groups will collect accurate data on the distance their bean travels and the time it takes to land.  We'll find an average for each of those data sets and use it to find the equation of the parabola.  I can't wait! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

8th grade math common core vocabulary

I'm trying to start planning for next year, when my district will fully implement the common core.  Thankfully, the transition in 8th grade won't be terribly drastic; much of what we're going to cover next year aligns to what my state has considered to be Algebra I.

One thing I want to implement next year is an interactive notebook, at least for my on-grade-level class.  If I'm truly ambitious, I'll do it for both preps.

I started today by looking into Frayer models and deciding that's how we'll record most of our vocabulary.  Mini models are created and will fit 4 to a page with room for a title on the page.  We're going to count 20 pages from the back of the composition book and paste in our glossary along with a glossary tab.    I'm leaving extra space because I expect I'll need to add in additional words either because kids have forgotten things from previous grades or because we're still going to be assessing our old curriculum, so there will be a few gaps I may need to fill in. 

Now, I have my notebook set up and I'm using Post-its to plan out which foldables will go where and what other types of information need to be in the book.  I'm hoping to have a complete model done before school lets out (but I'm also realistic enough to think that won't actually happen).  I would love to get my coworkers on board with this, but I might need to pilot it next year before they'll use it, too.

Wish me luck!  I'll be posting photos as I have progress. 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

EDIT (5/1/13): I'm adding the glossary document I created here.  I based it off the vocabulary contained in the CCSS Framework for 8th grade and included a few of the words that I expect to be prior knowledge but I see my students struggle with frequently.  If you find any additions, please let me know.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Exciting News!

Yesterday, I made a big decision: I'm going to submit my candidacy to become a National Board Certified Teacher next year.  I work with four NBCTs, three of whom I know well and who have encouraged me to pursue certification.  I also have a friend who teachers Special Education who is also going to go for certification next year.  What an exciting endeavor this will be.  I cannot wait to get started! 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Graphing Quadratic Functions: one insight

Last school year, I remember my students had a miserable time remembering the different ways that a function was transformed when they looked at the equation.  (Does minus 4 here mean that the graph goes up, down, left, or right?  Does a negative in front mean the parabola opens up or down?  Why would I want standard form versus vertex form?)  This year, I decided we needed some memory tricks for these along with our notes and our families of functions scrapbook. 

Cute trick #1 is an oldie but a goodie.  If the a value is negative, the graph is opening down, so "frowning."  Negative=frown, so that's should be an easy one to remember. 

Cute trick #2 is inspired by my kids last year who struggled with the idea of vertical stretch and shrink.  They so wanted to talk about horizontal stretch and shrink when they viewed graphs, but that's a bit backwards since an equation in the form y = 3x^2 has an a value greater than 1 which they understood to be an increase in size.  To that end, I did a little demo today in MS Word with clip art pigs.  I started with three equally sized pigs.  I kept the "parent" the same.  I changed the other two pigs based on a values of 2 and 1/2.  Tonight, I added the annotations and tomorrow this will be on my wall. 

 What sorts of tips and tricks do you share with your students to make graphing easier? 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B