Friday, June 28, 2013


Do MATH!  This summer I keep on thinking how I want my students to do math.  Actually DO MATH.  Meaning I want them to use their hands to explore and accomplish MATH.  I want them to measure with a ruler or tape measure.  I want them to use a protractor.  I want them to investigate with some actual data that they have collected.  I want them to construct.  I want them to cut and paste.  I want them to use pipe cleaners.  I want them to use Wikistix to create a graph.  They should be actually constructing something and numbers should be going through their heads.

Let me give you two phrases and you choose the one you like the best.
1.  Regurgitate math
2.  Experience math
Exactly.  I would choose 2 also.  But what do we make our students choose time and time again? Yep, #1.  

Here is the origin of this idea Do MATH.  Last spring I had my Precalculus students use a 30-60-90 triangle in a video.  Basically they had to construct a 30-60-90 triangle to help them explain some other concept that we were covering. Interestingly, the students didn't have any trouble with the concept we were covering but they did have major questions of "How do I make a 30-60-90 triangle?"  This was just mind-boggling to me.  These are the students who could tell you the exact distances of each side of a 30-60-90 triangle for just about any length of any side.  Now they wanted to know how to construct it?  Well, I had to rethink my own teaching.  Have I ever taught them how to make a 30-60-90 triangle?  Have they ever had the practical end of the trigonometry?  So I realized that my students are not at fault.  I AM AT FAULT!!!!!  I need to have my students DO MATH.  I will make time because I don't want my students to walk out of my class without some practical knowledge of their math instead of just theory.

Here are the ideas that I have been thinking about.  I have included the level for when this might be covered. You will notice there are a lot of Introduction to Algebra and Precalculus Ideas.  That is what I'm teaching now.
1.  Precalculus:  Construct a 30-60-90 triangle with cardboard or some other material.  One side must be at least 10 inches.   Justify in two ways that you know this is exactly a 30-60-90 triangle.    Others:  Construct a 45-45-90 triangle.
2.  Introduction to Algebra:  Build a Balance Scale.  Use any materials needed for the project.  You will be using pennies as your "weights".  You will be required to show the penny weight of a few different objects.  Notes:  I see this as an important link in how to solve equations.  This scale could be used when solving different equations.
3.  Introduction to Algebra:  Create a number line on the floor with blue masking tape.  You should mark out the numbers from -5 to 5.  Each number should have 10.5 inches between them.  You will be using these to add and subtract integers by standing up and moving to a problem.
4.  Precalculus:  Make a WikiStix parabola.  You must make it to be at least 15 inches in one direction.  You must be ready to justify why you know this is a parabola.   You must give the equation for the parabola.
Other ideas:  Create a sine graph. Create a  tangent graph.
5.  Introduction to Algebra:  Create a circle and  rectangle that have exactly 50 square inches of area inside.
6.  Precalculus:  Create a WikiStix triangle that shows how the ambiguous case is solved.

I have so many questions about this.
1.  Should I have a DO MATH day?  This might take up the whole class period.
2.  Should I have a DO MATH segment?  This would take up only a 15 minute class segment.
3.  How often should this happen?  Once a week?  Once a month?
4.  Ideas?  I definitely would need some ideas for this to occur.  See below for my short list.  Please comment and add to them.

All the Best,


Five Triangles said...

All of our problems are "doing math":

Thomas Leytham said...

Hello again Mr. Sladkey,
My name is Thomas Leytham, and I'm a student at the University of South Alabama. I'm majoring in math and education.

I was looking through your posts when I saw this little gem. Since I'm going to be a math teacher, I was very intrigued by your concept. I find "Doing Math" in my opinion is very important. It allows us to relate what math means in the real world to our students.

I have always considered that the reason people dislike math is because they can't see how it would benefit them. After all, math can be a foreign language at times. When students' see numbers and cannot interpret their meaning they get confused, and when they don't see a purpose in it, they stop trying.

Part of the reason I'm becoming a math teacher is to help students realize what math means to them.

In my current education class I'm learning about new methods of teaching. And although some of them are interesting, some of them I despise. The idea "should we really teach students knowledge only so they can pass the test?" has come up. Sadly, the answer most of my classmates and the people coming up with these techniques say no.

Ironically, whenever this topic is discussed, it is usually discussing math. Like, "should we really teach these complicated math problems when our students will never use them?" They don't seem to see what those math problems mean, or why we created them in the beginning, or what they mean for our students' lives. I was unsure what they meant by the ambiguous term "complicated math" problems. It is pretty subjective.

It is clear that these future teachers and current innovators didn't learn how math related to them. Or what the knowledge brought on a bigger scale.

I suggest that you find ways to relate math in more than just making a triangle. Go beyond that limit. But that is definitely a good place to start. If you aren't already doing it weekly, I suggest that you do. (I'm certain you can take a grade for it somehow if you need to.)

Good luck, and let me know how it is going.

Thomas Leytham