Got 10,000 Steps?

I don’t know how I ever taught the distance formula inside a classroom. In fact, any lesson I can do that sends kids outside while I get to breathe some fresh air and relax is the best lesson. I taught this once to the only student teacher anyone has ever entrusted me with. I taught him that along with a bunch of other anarchist teaching principles. Maybe that is why I’ve never had another student teacher? Anyway, I did this lesson a while ago as a way to introduce the distance formula to my geometry class. It was adapted from this lesson by Pam Wilson if you want to do some more reading and create something that might fit your class better. Enjoy!

I started them off with this warm-up problem:

Got 10,000 Steps-

It was a great problem because kids actually know the restaurant and there was a big fight about how many walks due to the fact that there is more than one entrance to the parking lot, something that doesn’t show up on the map. After this, I showed them this map our our school: Continue reading

Bare Bones Lessons: Human Graph Photo Shoot


On my bike ride to work today I was thinking about the quote by Bob Dylan, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” So then I asked myself, “What do I want to do today?” I decided that what I didn’t want was to spend all day inside.  Continue reading

Bare Bones Lessons: Paper Airplane Competition

We have three weeks left and my three Algebra 1 classes and I are working on a statistics project to finish off the year. More on that here. To learn about some of the stats concepts, I decided we would hold a paper airplane competition. The idea was that they would make planes that fly straight and far, we would take them outside, and throw them along a given line. It was to be a competition between my three classes. The first problem was to figure out how to make and throw the best airplanes for the competition, the second problem was to figure out which class won. Simple right? Continue reading

I’m Fried. Here’s Some Circles.

It’s the middle of May and I feel fried to a crisp. Like bacon, or fakon, or sopapillas, or beignets, or churros. I have done some research and have found that I am not the only teacher who feels this way. My students, most of whom hated school to begin with, are right there with me, and sometimes against me. I could go on and on about this but that’s what happy hour is for. Instead, I need to write about something that reminds me why I am teaching. I could talk about in-roads I am making with kids in really tough, sometimes dark situations, but let’s keep it light-hearted today and talk about something less important but fun. Here’s a math lesson: Continue reading

What Tony Hawk Has to do With Factoring Trinomials

My freshman algebra kids and I are starting a new trimester and our first project is going to be about the X-Games. On Monday, we kicked it off with this video of Tony Hawk riding a new kind of corkscrew ramp. We talked about it and then I had them inventing a new structure for the X-Games to bring up ratings, and then building their structures with paper. They also needed to brainstorm some problems that would need to be solved in the construction or riding of their structures. We are going to focus on projectile motion in this project but to build up to that we are learning the stuff about polynomials and factoring.

Continue reading

Bare Bones Lessons: Take them Outside!

I like to take “real-world” math questions and unpack them for content, then look at other solutions, and then finally think of bigger and better questions that could be asked instead. For example, here is the classic tree problem:


The students here are forced to use the information given, not to go out and get their own, and they are usually asked to use one particular method for doing it. They look at the problem and just accept that the 40 degrees and 75 feet appeared out of nowhere with no measurement. That is what textbooks always do, magical formulas and measurements appear, kids accept their authority and look for the one correct answer using the one right method. Never mind that this is supposed to be an estimation technique. Continue reading

Bare Bones Lessons: Angry Birds

I know a lot has probably been written on using the game Angry Birds to teach math, and it is a game that is pretty old but just in case, I would like to write a simple lesson idea for anyone to use and adapt. This is a good game because it is almost like the creators were math or physics teachers making up a game for their own class. Except nobody seems to be in on this as so many people outside of their class were or are addicted to it. Here are my lesson steps: Continue reading

Bare Bones Lessons: Stochastic Painting

I have always been interested in the notion that much of art is created by chance. A lot of people seem to think that they can’t do art because they don’t have the necessary skills or the time to learn them. We know those are excuses, that if anyone wanted to do art they would. But how much skill is involved in a particular piece and how much occurs due to chance is debatable. “Chance” here could be related to subconscious manifestations of our deepest fears, or it could be that your two-year-old knocked over your bottle of paint on an otherwise immaculate fruit-bowl portrait. I read this article called Chance in Art by Kristin Brenneman, a former Dartmouth student, and modified her instructions for a Stochastic Painting to be something better suited to a 7th grade art-infused math class (or math-infused art class). Here is what I came up with: Continue reading

Bare Bones Lesson: Marionettes!

This was apparently a math problem given to a third-grade class either for test-prep or an actual test. It came up on a Facebook group that I belong to:

Jessica has a 45-inch-long piece of yarn. She cuts it into a number of 4-inch pieces. She has 13 inches of yarn left. How many 4-inch pieces does she cut?

Which equation can be used to solve the problem?

a) 45 – 13xn = 4     b) 45xn – 13 = 4     c) 45 + 13×4 = n     d) 45 – nx4 = 13 Continue reading