Holy Smokes Batman! What Is That?

“Robin and Batman” by ABC Television – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

That Robin, is project-based learning…”a dynamic classroom approach in which students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge.” (Edutopia) Extreme exposure has been known to drive teachers mad.

And there it was the solution to all of my problems…project-based learning. Engage students in a significant activity based on a interesting question (WOP!). Give them scaffolding resources to keep them on track (POW!). Have them complete a realistic assessment to demonstrate their learning (KAPOW!). It was a terrific plan and for a while kept Gotham content and happy(KA-CHING!).

But as everyone knows, Gotham City is filled with an array of nefarious characters ready to defeat the peaceful city. Sometimes powerful measures must be taken to defeat the likes of Riddler, Joker, Catwoman, Egghead, and Penguin.

“Batman villians 1966″ by Greenway Productions – eBay

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Passive and Active Activities in the Flipped Classroom (Part 3)

“Verizon Wireless store” by Anthony92931 – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

One of my favorite activities in class involves the wireless carrier Verizon. The data for this activity comes from several years of annual reports published on the Verizon website. I have used this data in several contexts. In this post, I’ll demonstrate three of these activities. The first activity I use in the context of average rates of change. This activity is appropriate for a College Algebra or Calculus class. The second activity uses the same data in the context of marginal revenue. Finally, I’ll examine a point of inflection on the revenue at Verizon as a function of the number of wireless connections.

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Passive and Active Activities in the Flipped Classroom (Part 2)

redwood_01I originally planned this post to be about the Verizon Activity I talked about at MAA Mathfest. However, I decided to write about an activity I came up with on my way back from the Mathfest.

I guess all of you are also finishing off your first week or two of classes. Over the years I have spent less and less time going over the course policies on the first day. For me, the first day used to be an anomaly. I talked all of the hour and fifteen minutes and they sat. None of the subsequent classes would be like this. Yet this first day often turns students off and gives them the impression that my class is a one way communication channel. Many students may drop the class purely on the basis of that first day.

Instead of spending the entire class on the syllabus, I do fifteen minutes on how their grade is determined and then move on to an activity. They take a syllabus quiz over everything and that seems to be a better way to get them to review what they will be held responsible for. For my college algebra class this semester, this activity had a secret motive. I decided to add to the group activities I do in class and make the projects in the class a collaborative effort. To make these groups effective, I need to get a feel for the students and how they work together. I wanted the activity to give me a feel for their personality…leader or follower. Continue reading

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How to Sustain Projects in College Algebra and Finite Mathematics (Part 3)

quad_post_09The first two projects in the College Costs series focus on linear and quadratic models. In this post, we’ll look at exponential models of the college cost data and use it to answer the question: If you spend your first two years of college in a two-year college instead of a four-year college, how much would you save? We will demonstrate the process by modeling the national costs y as a function of the number of years after 2000 t with

y = Pert

This allows us to incorporate exponential function into the College Algebra curriculum as well as logarithms.

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Passive and Active Activities in the Flipped Classroom (Part 1)

No discussion of passive learning can begin without a reference to Ben Stein’s portrayal of an economic teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in 1986.

I think most of us could argue quite persuasively that there is no learning going on in this classroom. Although the teacher attempts to interact with the students with the infamous “Anyone, anyone?” question, there is no response from his audience. One might note that he is facing the class and attempting to gauge the student’s understanding of voodoo economics. Is he practicing active retrieval to help his students consolidate the information in memory? Continue reading

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