031: Math Masterpiece PBL

Project based learning is hard. Anyone who tells you differently has not done a high quality projects that leads to deeper learning. The reason in implementing project based learning so difficult is that the mindset has to change. There is a massive upfront preparation phase of mapping out the project with all the necessary elements, determining the authentic audience, how to weave in experts, and figuring out the final place for the project to reside. This all requires an invested time and energy focus months ahead of time. It requires the teacher(s) to do the the project, map things out, and have all bases covered knowing things will change and adapt based on the development of the students.

However, I have yet to meet an educator or student who has been part of a quality project that has not been changed for the good after completing and being part of a quality project.

As we explore projects I think many people would agree that math is probably one of the most difficult to create a high quality learning project, let alone integrating it with other subjects.

Recently, my wife who teaches 8th grade algebra and pre-algebra completed a project that was a pivotal moment for her, the students, and the school where she teaches. I know this seems quite dramatic, but it is true. Let’s cut into the project(pun intended).


 

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She was trying to find a way to enhance her math instruction and learning. Her department is already doing some great work to get to this point. They don’t use a textbook and essentially have created their own curriculum from scratch and other resources to enhance instruction. They also have a powerful PLC established where the teachers and instructional coaches have some high quality conversations about data, instruction, and how to constantly improve.

The general challenge of this project was to create art using the Desmos website by creating vertical and horizontal lines and lines with positive and negative slopes as well as multiple other functions that allowed students to create their desired masterpiece. This may not seem like much, but have you ever tried to create a minion or logo of your favorite team or coffee using nothing but math? I thought so!

Students were also given the parameter of a minimum of 75 lines. As students began to brainstorm and come up with their designs they had to have approval of their plans from the teacher. Once they were good they were given time to write their “code” to bring their art to life.

Students had to think. They had to teach one another, brainstorm, and do additional research as their ideas developed. How do I stop the line from going on endlessly? How do I create a curved line? What if I want to do this? or that? Many things were left open for them to explore and solve on their own. This is where the power in learning took place.

As they began to finish their designs the prints were then formatted to be cut in a vinyl cutter. Students would email the teacher their Desmos graph. From there the grids and all backgrounds would be removed within the software.

Art with all grids

Art with all grids

Remove all grids and lines from background

Remove all grids and lines from background

 

Clean background

Clean background

Choose the "Image" option

Choose the “Image” option

Save this file and load to your vinyl cutter

Save this file and load to your vinyl cutter

We use the Silhouette Cameo to do all of our cuts. It is a very easy to use vinyl cutter that makes great cuts and is very easy to learn.

For the sake of costs(vinyl is not the cheapest) students images were printed within a 5 x 5 in square so we could get 4-6 prints per 12 x 12 inch vinyl sheet. This was also large enough to see all details and small enough to add to computers, cars, and more.

Once they were all printed, students were given a day or two to pick all the pieces out. We had them do this part because it is their design and they understand what they want to be removed. Keep in mind that allowing students to do this will lead to mistakes. We had to cut several more than once. Students had a hard time understanding what to pick and what to leave. I would suggest having examples to show them so they can understand negative space.

In the end all students were able to take their designs home. However, this was the not the end. She decided to host her own exhibition during the day. We went back and cut out  about 40 of them again for a display. We placed colored cardstock that matched the vinyl behind it.

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We also made a poster of every single design(even the ones partially completed) using collage.com because we needed a site that would allow us to upload over 100 images. After several various exhibit design layouts(some were amazing) time got the best of us and she ended up with this very nice looking display at the front of the building.

 

(If you are interested in other layouts reach out to me)

The next step was to have the students own the learning. This is something that they have not had to do before. She invited staff to her room for a showcase day. She also emailed a letter to all parents inviting them to the school. For her exhibition day, staff and parents came during the class period. The students took on the role of the teacher and taught the adult how to write math equations and formulas to make simple shapes. This allowed them to showcase how difficult their own art was to create, gave them a sense of pride by how the adults struggled and really gave everyone a chance to bond over math. So often parents see kids doing work, but have no concept of what they are doing or how to engage with the content. My wife teared up several times watching the kids and parent interact.

 

This Sway has a massive amount of images to help you understand what was all created.

Despite the kids and teacher being super nervous, it turned out to be a glorious day. Since this project has ended(just a few weeks ago) she has already developed and launched a bigger and more massive project and is already sketching out plans for another project.

Just when you think you cannot do a project or thinking that pbl does not fit your curriculum, I challenge you to think again. It can be done. It is simply a matter of putting in the time, effort, and planning. It is finding people who can help you. It is removing the mental barriers you have placed on yourself as well as the limitations you have placed on students by deciding what they can and can’t do.

Nothing is impossible once you decide it is not.

All documents for the project can be found here

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Teaching Ideas: Math Links and Resources

2013 is not only the International Year of Giftedness and Creativity, it is also the year of Mathematics on Planet Earth…

http://www.i-programmer.info/news/204-challenges/5607-mathematics-of-planet-earth-2013-photo-contest.html

Numbers by Nature…

Video of Numbers in Nature….

http://www.livebinders.com/media/frame?myurl=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kkGeOWYOFoA#

Highschool Geometry Video Series

http://www.ehow.com/videos-on_12220605_high-school-geometry.html

Mathematical Impressions….. Surpising…

https://simonsfoundation.org/multimedia/mathematical-impressions-the-surprising-menger-sponge-slice/

Intrest Led Learning… unusual ways to explore math…

https://simonsfoundation.org/multimedia/mathematical-impressions-the-surprising-menger-sponge-slice/

Thank you Leslie for sharing!

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Using Technology in Junior High Math: Learning with cell phones and iPads and computers OH MY!

My wife is a junior high algebra and pre algebra teacher for Pleasant Valley Junior High. She does not like to give herself credit for the hard work and time she devotes to teaching math. She forms great relationships with the students and with that foundation kids come to class everyday ready to learn math…..even the ones that don’t like math.

One of her goals this year has been to work on shifting to Common Core and more importantly to engage students with the concepts. After a great presentation and keynote speaker yesterday during our professional development day with George Couros and doing some presenting myself I could not help but think that I was missing something. It finally hit me that my wife has been doing some great and amazing things with technology in her math class. I often think that math is such a tough content area to connect with students and to make relevant. Most junior high students don’t think big picture and don’t hear why this or that is important to their lives.

I asked my wife to share with me some of her recent lessons. I hope you find them useful and if you have suggestions or perhaps even other great ideas to share that would be wonderful. 

As teachers we are all “Idea Bandits” where we search, read, and research ideas and then tweak them to make them our own. These ideas originated from me throwing out some questions of help on my PLN as well as her looking online for ideas. 

Idea #1: Students create videos for to help them review

My wife used Wallwisher which is now Padlet(new and improved) with her students. For a review for a test over concepts she gave each student a question to prepare and explain how to solve. She gave each of them a hard copy of all the problems first so they could see what the problem looked like before they watched the video.

To record students they kept things simple to start. They used good old whiteboards and used the camera option to record. They spread out in hallways and classrooms to record. Anytime you try something new you always test the waters, reflect, and make changes. There are apps that can help make this even better like Screenchomp which she plans on using next. This is one app worth having if you have the opportunity for iPads in your school. If you don’t have iPads there are other ways to do this very project using Flip videos for example. I will be adding how to screencast without iPads(my school does not have iPads at the middle school) over on my classroom tools wiki page as well as tutorials on how to use these apps and tools(will be posted within a week).

After they recorded their screencast and explanations the students then uploaded them to Padlet where all students could see all the problems. This way students could go and access the video they needed. There was no wasting time by having to sit through problems they already knew how to do. They could just go to where they needed help. Really, this is a whole flipped classroom and crowdsourcing project that benefits everyone.

Here is a link to the final results of her review assignment. The students really liked this project. The kids did say that sometimes the videos took a while to load. I think if using at home it would be faster as most schools internet is slow anyways

I will be posting her next cool math idea soon. It is titled Texting Olympics. Stay tuned.

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Teaching Ideas: Math Enrichment and Apps

Math binders:

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=762061

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=24733

Apps:

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=95651

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=417981

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=331341

Don’t know if this might be useful

http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=124362

http://www.studyladder.com/

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