Monday, May 6, 2013

A Sick Teacher’s Morning/ Newton’s Law of Cooling Application

If you are uninterested in my  battle and detective work against e. coli and only want to talk Newton’s Law of Cooling, skip down to paragraph 6. I understand Newton’s law of cooling is way more interesting.

Starting at 2 am today, I woke up with a horrible stomach ache. I believe my morning from 2 am-6 am was a result from an evil army of microscopic, hairy Mic n’ Nikes- I looked up what e. coli looks like. I constantly forget about and do not give enough respect to our microscopic world that can overtake so easily.

I have two suspect sources:  I sprouted some alfalfa sprouts in my magic sprouter. I am now afraid of my beautiful cup full of alfalfa, and sadly I think I may just compost them. Or, I also tried eating dandelion leaves for my first time, which I first washed in the rain collector barrel we have. Either I am allergic to dandelion leaves, which I think is like being allergic to lettuce- so unlikely. Or, the NPR program over how rain barrels are e. coli collectors is sadly true.

Anyway, I think e. coli ruined my morning pretty horribly. Never fear though; my students had lessons today yet. I hunched over my computer on the bathroom floor putting together lesson plans. It was sad because there are three weeks of school left, so the crunch time is upon me to get all that I want done. I prepared so well on Saturday night and had today laid out perfectly, only to hand it all over in dry-heaved, butchered form.

Anyway, I slept in hard and woke up feeling a lot better (:, but still not wanting to move around a lot. So, of course the mind starts to nag at you about all of the things I could do. Three things nagged the most: 1.) Writing a month overdue thank you- check. 2.) Writing a blog since it has been months- doing it, check! And 3.) correcting some papers- oh yes, always those; never check. Never L.

I figured I would take the time to share a recent lesson. It is in progress, so it is rough. I love having my students make websites. I love it. So, for our final project to close up our Calculus course, I am having them review an application of integration we went over through a fudge making project. They will be making a nerdy website by bringing in calculus calculations to calculating the time at which the fudge needs to cool.

I only have 7 more days with them. Two of which go to taking a test, so five. The first outline for this project is down below:

Task 1: My students at first had no idea what I meant by task one. Which to be honest I was peeved about. Was my objective not clear? Did they not know they should research about fudge making in order to do the task “CREATE THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAKING THE BEST FUDGE!” I got over myself though. I realize my instructions are vague. I had to prompt them, with too sarcastic of questions like “So you guys know all it takes to write instructions on MAKING THE BEST FUDGE.” I had the questions from the like “Are recipes good enough for task 1?” My response was “No. They need to find some tips and secrets." Then one students found a great resource (the first link I provided)  in the links down below. In a nutshell, they say the key to smooth fudge is in the COOLING and the WHIPPING. These were the resources I hoped they would come across:
Task 2:  We tested over Newton’s Law of cooling as an application to integration a couple months back, so I handed back there old test, and we discussed and journalled. Then we did the referenced problem which is as follows.
“46.)  When an object is removed from a furnace and placed in an environment with a constant temperature of 80o F, its core temperature is 1500o F. An hour later after it is removed, the core temperature is 1120o F. Find the core temperature 5 hours after the object is removed from the furnace.”

Task 3: I think the essential questions are the hardest part. We so far just discussed the two that I did as examples. We decided we are going to do a few batches to see how the rate at which it cools varies depending on the type of fudge it is. The types of fudge they listed: Cookies N’ Cream; Peanut butter; and regular. We are going to go with a standard room temperature. We also said we could do it on another day where the room is warmer (we do not have air conditioning at our school).
I will let you know how the rest of our discussion goes.
I see us taking two days to come up with more questions and write the protocol for the experiment.
We will take three to actually do the fudge making and website making. The roles for the website making can be the instructions for the fudge, the recipe writing, and the typing out of the protocol. Together, while the fudge is cooling and while we are eating, the calculations and the reflections can be pounded out and put up.
Stay tuned!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Project Based Learning VS. Project

I am deepening my search for projects and working towards Problem Based Learning. I have been content in developing and stealing project ideas that are meant to be an end-of-the-unit assessment to see students collaborate and make connections and applications for the skills they are learning. For example, in the last blog, we did the radio project.  I was happy with the type or problem-solving and collaborative spirits that came out of my students for the project.

I recently did another project where students were to transfer their skills of vectors to a challenge problem, which I will call a project. First of all, I learned the pretenses of calling a problem a challenge problem. The mere connotation of the word “challenge” made some students assume impossible/too hard to do without the teacher. AHHH!!! We had to talk about how life poses challenges all the time. I expressed my hope for them to be the ones to persevere and fight through challenges that came up.

After taking notes on vectors and vector operations and completing a vector operation assignment, I thought they could tackle the challenge problems worksheet. It turned out to be a real mess. We spent extra time trying to straighten things out. The motivation of the students was pretty low too. I had a target marked on Geogebra (which I love now!) where they would give me the direction and the time in the air, I would enter the date, add the wind, and viola!, we would all see if the direction they took along with the wind would end up hitting the target. One group out of the 20 students managed to do it. I am very frustrated with how it went.

I had a handout for the vector vocab and notes- just because there was so much vocabulary
After doing an assignment on the component forms of vectors, operations, and working with direction and magnitude, students faced the following challenge problems.

I have to mention: I also have a student teacher right now. I have gotten a lot of time to be reflecting about the atmosphere of the classroom. I have felt a little overwhelmed with the question of "how do I get them to think for themselves?" Are my students really facing the everyday challenges and transfering their knowledge to face the unknowns. The process and fight of problem-solving is the real fuel to my fire, or real passion of my teaching. How do I get that fire going in my classrooms? 

I felt I had to recenter my goals, so I do not get overwhelmed with all I have been taking in and observing from my classes. Observing as a person in the back can really shine some light on things to work on in the classrooms.

Goal 1: Design a unit that is truly PBL and not just a project at the end of the unit. I need that students to question and push hard to create understanding for themselves, so they are ready to face the end-all CHALLENGE at the end. I have read and article that is helping me see the difference between a project and  a true PBL set-up I will be working towards that.

Goal 2: Work on my own “Three-Act Task” like Dan Myer’s which I believe falls in line with my goal 1.

Goal 3: Work on a project with the English department and the Ag department at my school about sustainability of rural communities that will build on the BIG IDEA: Students will research their community, investigate population changes, and economic impact and decline. Students will learn how to address issues that affect the sustainability of a small rural community, create 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Foxhole Radios

I am having a few regrets about a project that I started. It is a constant effort for me to try to find activities that students will find interest in, so they can apply some of the math skills we go over to real life scenarios and situations. I have come up with some great activities, and then of course some not so great activities. Recently, I launched a radio project where students were to apply their knowledge of sine and cosine waves to sound. One of the focuses I thought I would direct their attention to as an application was the sound we hear from radios. I thought it would be neat to have the students build fox hole radios, and then have them make a website about how amplitude, frequency, period, and key points of these sinusoids apply to radios. Here is my radio project guide:
The problem with this project is the students are more interested in getting their radios to work. I keep having to remind them that the radio is not the biggest portion of the task. The creation of an informative website about sinusoids- how to graph them and the applications of them- is the major part of the project... It has been a learning experience. I am just still not sure if what they are learning is what I want them to learn.  I want ask out, and see if anyone will help with what is going wrong with our radios. No one, including myself have gotten the radio to work yet.

Here is a picture:

Can anyone tell me what is wrong? The left blue cable is the connection to the antenna which is out the window and hanging over our school building. The other is plugged into the wall to be grounded.

The following links are to my students' websites in progress: