Experiencing Scale in Higher Dimensions

A colleague and I have often bemoaned our attempts to teach the concept of scale factor in higher dimensions. A topic that has such beautiful and elegant patterns and symmetries between the scale factors consistently seems to sail directly past the experience of our students. I have tried enacting several tasks with the students including some favourites from the #MTBoS (Mathalicious 1600 Pennsylvania and Giant Gummy Bear). Each time, the thinking during the task seems to dissipate when new problems are offered. It just seems like students have a hard time trusting the immense rate that surface area and volume …

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Solid Fusing Task

The progression followed by most teachers and resources during the study of surface area and volume is identical. Like a intravenous drip, concepts are released gradually to the patients so as to not overdose them with complexity. Begin with the calculation of 2-dimensional areas, and then proceed to the calculation of surface area of familiar prisms. (I say prisms, so a parallel can be drawn to the common structure for finding the volume of said prisms. That is, [area of base x height]). In this way, surface area is conceptualized as nothing more than a dissection of 3-dimensional solids into …

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My Favourite Surface Area Question

Surface area is intuitive. Intuition is a natural hook into curiosity. When you think something might (or should) be the case, it begs the question, why? It just seems as though textbooks haven’t gotten wind of that.Perusing the surface area chapter of the assigned textbook for my Grade 9 math class offers a steady diet of colourful geometric solids all mashed together (at convenient right angles) in various arrangements. Without fail, the questions ask the same thing:Find the surface area of…Best case, students are asked to “create” a mimicked amalgam of standard solids and then calculate the surface area of …

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CCSS: Support from the North

I can’t–for the life of me–understand why someone would argue to eliminate high level mathematical reasoning in favour of memorized tricks, but that seems to be the case with those arguing against the Common Core State Standards. I cannot fathom how this can be the case except to chalk it up to a case of “he-said-she-said”. Change (especially in something as resistant to it as mathematics education) breeds ignorance. And Ignorance breeds fear.Let’s face it: The public are scared of reform efforts and most teachers aren’t far behind. There are multiple (legitimate) reasons. Time Mathematical Proficiency Control / Power Outside Testing Pressures …

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Project Work Scaffold

There are two schools of thought when it comes to PBL: Start with a large-scale project and fit the specific outcomes within it, or Build toward a larger project with smaller tasks. I love the idea of large projects, but also aim to make my work as accessible as possible for those who want to take it and improve on it. I just don’t see option one working within my traditional classroom of 35 students for one hour a day. The existence of an overarching curriculum only further decreases its accessibility. As for option two, there is an art in equipping students for project …

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Soft Drink Project Part 5: The Show

This is the finale of a series of blog posts detailing a student posed project. To get the full picture, begin reading at part one: Soft Drink Project Part 1: The Framework As the project drew to a close, students began to place a valuation on their work. Very seldom did the topic of grades come up during the process, but even students know they are playing a game. They asked me how I would be grading, and I told them we would be using our self/peer/teacher model as always. Even after the entire process, students were still musing on …

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Soft Drink Project Part 4: The Math

This is the fourth in a series of posts detailing a student-posed math project. To get the full picture, please read the previous posts beginning with: Soft Drink Project Part 1: The Framework This post is designed to dampen the fear of math teachers. I know, because I was very afraid that the project had missed the mark until students moved into this phase. For some reason, teachers feel like they have more ability to complete a list of outcomes if they dictate the exact way, pace, and form that the learning will take. My division states they want to create …

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Soft Drink Project Part 3: The Design

This post is the third in a series of posts detailing the happenings of a math project. To better understand the whole story, please start reading at the beginning: Soft Drink Project Part 1: The Framework The next few classes after the brainstorming class were a blur. Students would come into class, grab their previous work, and get down to business. It was the best I could do to have supplies waiting for them. I learned quickly that students can become pretty demanding when it came to their learning. I didn’t have any problems granting their requests; none of them …

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Soft Drink Project Part 2: The Brainstorm

This post will make a lot more sense if you read the framework for the project in “Soft Drink Project Part 1: The Framework“. I left the classroom energized; I could not remember a time that I was more pleased with a lesson that I had taught. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it teaching. I was observing. The process of brainstorming began organically. I had my doubts that it would continue the following Monday. Typically, students can’t even remember where they sit after a weekend–let alone what task they ended on. Monday came and, much to my astonishment, students …

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Soft Drink Project Part 1: The Framework

This post is the first in a series describing a set of classes in my Grade 11 Workplace and Apprenticeship class. I have designed the course around the ideals of Project-Based Learning (PBL); students encounter a series of tasks, problems, and prompts that necessitate three crucial qualities: Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and  Communication. Each unit leaves ample room for student extensions and mathematical forays into more elaborate pursuits. This unit was no different. Students studied the topics of Surface Area and Volume through a series of tasks, problems, and prompts–one of which ballooned into the subject of this blog series. I …

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