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


Adventures in Aesthetic Computing

I’m teaching three algebra 1 classes this year and I wanted to start the year off with some art projects to fill my classroom. I stumbled upon this idea  developed by Paul Fishwick, while scouring the internet over the summer. It’s called aesthetic computing and it is a great way to turn math into art.  Basically it works like this: You start with an algebraic expression or formula such as the iconic:

You then rewrite the formula in explicit notation, like you would for an excel spread sheet formula: E = m*c^2. Next, create an expression diagram: Continue reading

Ramping Up the Inquiry

Is real inquiry-based learning possible in a ninth grade algebra class full of struggling learners? If so, what does it look like? Is it rigorous? Can you cover the content?

Here are my quick answers to the respective questions: Of course it is; See below; Yes and schools don’t understand the meaning of rigor (more on that in a future post); Don’t care.

For the past 5 or 6 weeks my algebra 1 kids and I have been working on a project about the X-Games. Specifically we have looked at skateboarding and mega ramps. I chose this project because I currently teach in a school that has a set curriculum and I have to teach quadratics right now. Since the real world application for quadratics has to do with things being launched in the air, I thought the kids could explore ramps and think about what it would mean to bring the X-Games to our town. 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