As educators we are constantly looking for ways to improve our instruction. The increase in digital activities has made content creation a globally collaborative process, but at times we are limited to those within our own networks. Wouldn't it be great if there were a way to share, improve, and offer feedback to ANYONE creating ANYTHING? Now there is!
Need help or advice creating an activity? post finished or unfinished activity with #improvemyAB on twitter and watch the feedback roll in! The more we collaborate, the better we get.
This past January, Michael Fenton and Dan Meyer challenged Hawaii teachers to improve our modeling tasks.
Using an NCTM article that Dan wrote as the base, we were introduced to the five student actions that take place in modeling:
1. Identify Variables
To start, I displayed the following picture:
For anyone who doesn't know, this is a picture of Manute Bol who to my knowledge is either the tallest or second tallest player in NBA history. I chose this image in particular because first of all, I was confident (and correct) that my students did not know who this was and secondly that in this picture Bol is not in an NBA uniform (so he couldn't be googled easily).
We did a "notice and wonder" about the picture and got surprisingly good results. Students noticed that (1) this must have been a long time ago (not necessarily true), (2) that he was much taller than the referee, and (3) that it looked like his heat was only a foot under the basket.
The top two "wonders" and the question we ended up answering in most of the classes were (1) "How high could he reach without jumping?" and (2) "Could he dunk without jumping?". The class IMMEDIATELY jumped to answer the second question with an enthusiastic "yes!" before I posed the question "How do you know that he Isn't just standing much closer to the camera?". In the end the predictions were about 50-50.
Based on their observations we were able to gather some information that students found helpful. Students asked and we determined his height to be 7'7" and many students gave the suggestion of using one or more of the tallest kids in class to compare height vs. standing reach.
2. Formulate Models
Rather than just use one or two students per class I gave each student the opportunity to measure their own height and standing reach. Students quickly came up with ideas for relating this to the standing reach of Manute Bol. Many of them created semi-linear relationships comparing height and standing reach, but a few students went through each data point and found the ratio of height to standing reach and used a proportional relationship to find Manute Bol's height (which led to a good headache discussion about which was easier... separate post). I sent them home over the weekend to get their answers and did not formally introduce the concept of scatter plots until the following Monday (This is where the aspirin came in). Using whatever model they wanted (proportional relationships, scatter plots and trend lines, etc.) they then had another night to get an exact answer.
5. Validate Conclusions
After completing their models and calculations and interpreting the results into conclusions I thought I would use the fact that Manute Bol had unusually long arms to show how this model FAILED. We looked up Manute Bol's standing reach and found it to be 125" to make our prediction, then I loaded all of the class information into desmos and ran a regression
I was both delighted and horrified to find that based on our model, Manute Bol's standing reach was 124.92". The model worked!! To counteract these findings I needed to find other NBA players and find their standing reaches as well. Yao Ming and Shaq were close, but others like Dwight Howard, Lebron James, and Stephen Curry were not close at all. we used these results to conclude that different people have different arm lengths and that this model would not always be correct.
If you want the resources I used to complete this activity you can find them on my lessons page here.
No real blog post this time...I just wanted to say that the lesson page is starting to take shape. These are lessons separate from those posted under desmos activities and are usually (at least partially) offline. I will try to upload lessons periodically. At the bottom of each lesson I'll provide links to all of the digital and print resources you may need. Please feel free to copy and download, but please ask before you repost anything and do not sell anything you see on this site for $$$. I will keep these lessons up for free and don't plan on taking any lessons off of the page, ever. As always, feedback is greatly appreciated!
First lesson uploaded: "Knots in a Rope"
Check it out here!
Having already introduced angle relationships in parallel lines (with a transversal), I needed to introduce the concept of using the angle relationships to find missing values. The goals of this activity were to:
While traditional problems could do the trick for this task, they in my opinion fall short in on very big way:
In exercises like the one above students are trained to trust the problem to give them exactly as much information as needed. I wanted students to decide when they had enough information.
In order to force students to ask for exactly enough information I decided to create a Desmos activity similar to 20 questions. The activity would be simple:
Where This Lesson Fails
Before you go running off giving this activity to your students know that this activity FAILS in the worst ways. In my defense, I did dream it up at 3 AM and build in in an hour, but the only reason it ever made it on twitter was because of the surprising results from an activity that was not thoroughly vetted before running with students (see "Surprising Results", below).
In the design of the lesson itself:
In the looks of the activity:
Despite the design flaws I ran this activity with great success in the classroom. I had to make a few last minute changes like allowing students to run the activity from the beginning when they got a question wrong. In order to incentivize completing the assignment as designed made a "raffle" in each class and gave more entries to groups that took less attempts to complete all 12 challenges. In the end students were so excited to complete the tasks that they were yelling across the room things like "I could do it in two clues"!
In my opinion the surprising success of this activity was not due to the activity itself but to two policies I put into place. First, students were assigned to work in pairs on a single computer and were told to discuss with each other whether or not the clues were sufficient before asking for another clue. Secondly, I had the students record all of their work on the template referenced in the description of the activity and collected the papers at the end of the activity. This allowed me to gain insight into which clues students were using to find missing values.
Summary and Next Steps
The success of this activity was a matter of pure chance and created by the lucky combination of a few unplanned modifications. The success I saw in the excitement and retention (class average on the exam was above 85%... higher than I am used to or even comfortable with) was, however, a sign that 20 Questions v2 could have some success.
There are a few changes I want to make:
If anyone has ideas or strategies for revealing the right clues at the right time I would gladly appreciate it...
I've finally decided to transition my email newsletter into a complete blog, but I still plan to send out my regular newsletters every week. If you want to get these posts as an email you can subscribe to the left or by clicking here.
A website also became necessary to organize lessons and activities and provide a place for people to find the Breakout! activities in one place which factored heavily into my decision to transition to a true blog. That being said, I am VERY new to the whole blogging thing and I would very much appreciate any advice you have to give. Thank you!