Two Trains…

How many of you have seen a problem like this one?

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I’m a fan of taking a problem like this, one that you would assign for homework (in the “application” section of the exercises….and one that very few students even attempt….and someone will ask you to take it up next class) and bring it to the start of my lesson. I’ll teach our concept/idea through this problem. But we can’t just throw this problem up on the board and say “Let’s solve it”……because no will want to. There is no drive for any of us. Like Dan mentions here….who cares!

Who cares about the trains travelling…who cares that they are even trains….they could be bicycles, or cars playing chicken….but is changing the context really going to change how engaging the problem is to students? Dan argues no. I agree.  Before you read about this lesson check out this post on Real vs. Fake world….and the Circle Square lesson on 101qs.com which was an inspiration for changing the Two trains problem around.

Here’s my go at this one:

Show them this video:

ask What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Have students guess WHEN the two dots would meet?

Give some more info

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Have them guess on WHERE the dots will meet?

Have a discussion on what will be needed to determine the times and distances. Spend some time here on speed. Go over the relationship between distance, time, and speed.

Show them this image and have them makes some guesses on where the dots are now.

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then reveal

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Calculate the speeds of the dots. Have students go back to their original guess on time and find how far each dot would travel.  Who in the class is closest? Did anyone guess right?

Now help them generalize…

Create the equations

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If our lesson is on solving this using an algebraic technique we can teach them that here. Or maybe we want to show them the graphical solution. Either way we have taken the tougher question from homework that no one cares about and used it to set up and teach a skill.

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and finally,

I’m sharing this lesson now (before I teach it) with you hoping to get some feedback. Writing these lessons here also help me work out the details. This is week 4 of the #MTBos blogging initiative and its focus is lessons. I won’t get a chance to teach a lesson this week. Our school had final exams and then PD days in preparation for second semester. Good luck to all those starting up again!!

 

Catch the Spiral! 

Last May I shared my day-to-day planning spreadsheet for my grade 9 applied course. On that sheet I recorded the topic, tasks, and resources for each day of the semester. I used that as a resource for myself when teaching 1P through a spiral this semester. I found that having that sheet to go back too was super helpful and a time saver. This semester I followed that timeline except with a few tweaks here and there.

Since that sheet was so handy to have I made one similar for my MPM2D class. It was my first time spiralling that course and I wouldn’t go back to teaching through units again.

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I heavily relied on Mary Bourassa’s blog….she is amazing. She shares her day-to-day plan as posts on her blog and also shares all of her resources and handouts. Thanks so much Mary!!!

Spiralling in Academic vs. Spiralling in Applied

I struggled initially with deciding to spiral the MPM2D course because of my experience with MFM1P. I had previously taught the 1P course through activities and 3 act math problems so it was a no brainer to just mix up the order of the problems and tasks. It was an easy transition since I had all the resources. For the 2D course though, it had been a while and I had not taught it with a task/activity approach.

What I found to work best in the academic class was to learn all new ideas/topics through activities and productive struggle with some direct instruction thrown in as a consolidation. Unlike the 1P course where I switched tasks/topics daily, I stuck to a topic/idea for a few days or a week in the 2D course. Once, for example, the class was comfortable with transformations of quadratics we would switch to trigonometry for a week, then analytic geometry for a week, etc.

I felt that through spiralling and teaching through productive struggle my students were better problem solvers. They were not just waiting to be told how to solve a problem. They were always actively thinking about which ideas they had learned could apply to solve a particular problem. That confidence I saw allowed us to go more deeply into the content than ever before. We just didn’t skim the surface of the processes, algorithms, and algebra needed, we solved problems!!

If you wanted to spiral the 2D course or a similar course I thought I would share out my plan to help out. Here is my day-to-day plan with links, resources, Desmos activities, 3 Act tasks, assignments, homework, etc from my spiralled MPM2D course. (It’s not fully complete for every day but you’ll get a sense of how the class ran).

Most files are either Smart Notebook, Apple’s Keynote, or PDF.

Get Apple’s Keynote on your Mac or on iOS.

 

 

Promote Struggle – A Hero’s Journey in Math Class

While in Miami for the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute we saw a speaker from Pixar (I can’t recall his name) discuss the aspects of Story. More specifically he spoke about the Hero’s Journey. That talk really hit home for me. Below is how I interpreted his message and how it relates to my classroom.

A Hero’s Journey

All of these characters take a hero’s journey….

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Since I’m a math teacher describing the Hero’s Journey is best done with……a graph (English teachers will know it’s shown as a cycle).

On a time vs. Tension graph the Hero’s Journey looks like this: Time is the length of the journey….or story. The tension is felt by the audience. 

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In the beginning the hero is introduced, the main conflict is introduced, his/her world starts to change. As the story continues the hero must battle the forces of evil & go through struggle. They must experience conflict. It’s the conflict that the hero learns about themselves. They learn their strengths and weaknesses. It’s the struggle that makes the ending awesome. Its the struggle that make the hero see the solution. It’s the lessons they’ve learned in the struggle that let’s them go aha! I know what I need to do! The story would mean nothing to the hero and the audience if the climax was much earlier in the timeline. As the story ends the character returns to a NEW normal. They take their learning and come out stronger on the other side. 

This curve we see above is nothing new to us. This curve is what learners go through. It’s a Learner’s Journey too.

Now, if we take a look at our traditional math classrooms we have a format much like this:

Photo credit: Kyle Pearce

Photo credit: Kyle Pearce

Let’s look at that structure on the Time Tension graph. 

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After we take up homework, we introduce the new lesson or topic or problem to work on. It’s unfamiliar so tension in our students starts to increase.  But what happens is that as the tension rises it immediately falls back down. And my good buddy Kyle Pearce mentioned to me that the tension doesn’t fall all the way back to the axis….a good number of our students feel that tension permanently. 

Why does the tension fall immediately?

We make that happen. We relieve students of their pain by immediately telling them HOW to solve the problem.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 9.59.24 PMIt’s Our examples & solutions. Students don’t get a chance to struggle & discover, Therefore the math formula, strategy or algorithm means nothing to them! The memorizers will memorize and do ok, and the non-memorizers lose again. The ideas and strategies have no real value to them. 

I think students should feel the need for the math they learn. They should experience struggle ….just like the hero.Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 10.20.30 PM

Let’s take the old model of our lessons and change it to match the Hero’s Journey. It’s the struggle that adds value to their learning. Let’s move the reveal of math rules etc farther in the timeline. Let’s let the students productively struggle through problems. The reveal of the “math” will mean so much more after students see and/or feel the need for it. 

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An example in my class this week came when I wanted to teach students how to determine an equation of a quadratic function when given some key points.

I gave them this simple Desmos Activity Builder slide.

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Students already knew about vertex form of a quadratic function so I knew they could put in most of this equation. It’s the “a” value that they really didn’t know how to get efficiently. So I saw a lot of this…

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Students used trial and error to find -1/4 as the right “a” value. But we then asked “How do we know that’s the right one?” We then discussed plugging in a point to check to see if the right side equals the left side. They had a few more slides just like this but with different points. By the end of the last slide you could see that they really wanted a more efficient way of determining the “a” value than guessing and checking. This is where I stepped in and we discussed the idea of using one of the points and the equation to solve for the “a” value. Everyone was on board! They all had struggled before we discovered an efficient strategy. They all wanted it. If I had started class by showing them the first slide and then just telling them how to do it, I would see lack of understanding of why and bored faces.

It’s the struggle that makes the math worth it! Let’s let our students be Heroes. How are you promoting struggle in your classroom? I would love to hear of your ways. Leave a comment below.

Click here to grab the Desmos Activity Builder Activity I showed above.

Introducing Trig through Slope

Here is our lesson today to introduce trigonometry for the first time. We had spent a few days with solving problems with similar triangles. We are spiralling and have done  lots of work recently using slope and the distance formula to classify triangles. I wanted to capitalize on that familiarity with slope to introduce the tangent ratio for the first time.

We started with this….again

Most students like last time chose A and their reason was it was less steep. So I asked “How much less?” “How do we measure that?”……SLOPE was the response and they calculated the slopes to verify.

Next I had them do this…
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I stressed supreme accuracy and added “Try to create a size of triangle you think no one else will make”……I had them measure their rise and run and enter them in this table on the board.

Table

I also kept a running table in Desmos…

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As more students added their triangles I could hear them say, “I bet all the slopes should be the same” , “They’re all similar triangles” We took a moment to discuss similarities and make it clear we all have similar triangles and that the ratio between the rise and the run should all be the same. We also discussed why some of our triangles did not have a slope of 1.7. I had them repeat the process with an angle of 45 degrees.

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I said out loud that MY slope ratio was 1….and I could see all their heads bobbing up and down….”Yep, we got 1 too”.

Next….

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I asked them again to create an angle/triangle (Had them keep the same orientation of the triangle as I did in my diagram) that no one else would.

Measure the rise and the run, then calculate your slope. Keep your triangle and slope hidden, especially from ME.

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Keeping their angles and ratios hidden from me I said…”When I point to you tell me your angle….and I’ll magically tell you your slope” Cue the Oooohs and aaaahs.

I played up the magic bit. I held my calculator up to shield the screen from them.

I pointed at one student they told me “34 degrees”. I punched on my calculator mysteriously and said…”0.67.” The student yelled out….”Hey that’s right”. I went around the room pointing at students and telling them their slopes (ratios). I could see it on their faces, they wanted to know how I was doing this……Boom Let’s talk about Trigonometry.

So I said:

“In math we have these things called functions….they’re like black boxes that take an input and do some number crunching and spit out an output. One function you have used already is the square root function. You give the function 9 and it spits out 3. We math people use a symbol for this function so we all know what is going on. There is another function that will calculate the slope of a right triangle if you give it the angle. So we could write something like this “(I used one of the students angles).

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“This is what I was doing when you gave me your angles….I was using the function to calculate your ratio between rise and run. But we don’t usually use the term slope when we talk about right triangles. We use fancy words.” I had them draw a right triangle in their notes and we labeled it with Hypotenuse, opposite and adjacent. Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 5.07.34 PM

“Instead of using a slope function…..we use the word TANGENT. And instead of using the word rise we use the word OPPOSITE and instead of run we use ADJACENT. So we can write this tangent function equal to the rise/run = opp/adj.”

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“And we math people don’t like to write too much so we really use this version.”

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Then we practiced using the tangent button on our calculators. They pretended to be the magicians and checked each others ratios. We practiced using the inverse tangent button to find angles.

Once we were comfortable we moved into writing the ratio and finding the angle out. We also used this example to write the tangent ratio of the other angle.Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 2.21.05 PM

and then one more for lengths:

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Since we are spiralling I gave them the homework set (Mary Bourassa Style) to work on….here.

Tomorrow I’ll introduce the Sine and Cosine function.

Using slope here to introduce trig allows us to take something familiar and make something new. Students could see the progression happen and not have trig just thrown at them.

Would to love to hear your thoughts on this. How do you introduce trig?