Woodblock Slingshot


So, we did the woodblock slingshot as a way to fit a parabola to a set of student collected data. The setup is easier to show than explain.



Here’s the handout I used:

What went well:

-The discussion about the shape of the data was great. As long as multiple groups got a smooth curve, the class tended to agree that a quadratic model would work best.

-The data was pretty easy to collect. It’s just linear distance measurements, so…

What didn’t work:

-The data collection was pretty messy, it was hard to get a consistent measurement across multiple trials. And as always, some groups just decided that multiple trials weren’t necessary, so their data was all over the place.

-My handout wasn’t crystal clear about fitting the curve. I think maybe I should include hints (does your data look like a linear or quadratic model might fit?)

-The payoff wasn’t flashy. I’m thinking next time, we’ll have a contest to see whose equation can make the most accurate prediction (like closest to the edge of the table or something). They’ll have to explain their prediction, including the graph and the equation, then we’ll test it out.

Ideas for next time:

-Leave the data table blank. Let the students decide how far to pull back in order to get a good range of measurements.

-Many groups were recording the position of the block (because that’s what my instructions said, whoops), not the distance it traveled. They are different because you pull back on it, so it doesn’t start at zero. I think the better method might be to have one measuring tape, and columns in the data table for “starting position”, “final position”, and “distance traveled”.

-Use a roll of tape as the object. the woodblock would rotate as it traveled, making it hard to get accurate distance measurements. One group used a roll of tape instead and worked nicely because the spin didn’t matter.


Why Don’t We Always Start with Puzzles?


That is what a student asked while working on the intro activity today for my systems unit. Got it. Note to self: start more units with puzzles, kids like them.

So, I got the idea from Kathryn (her post here) who got the puzzles from Mimi (her post here). Here’s the direct link to the handouts Mimi so kindly shared in the comments section of her blog.

As I liked the order of the puzzles and the wording of the questions, I just used them as is. Here’s a completed example from today:


I just had to blog about this because it went so beautifully. First of all, that one kid who asked why we don’t always start with puzzles was not the only one excited about the activity. Most kids took to it right away, including some who normally groan at the sight of anything that might require them to think. Second, they really learned a lot by doing these puzzles. They not only noticed that finding the value of one shape allowed them to substitute into another row/column, but some also started to notice that by eliminating certain shapes from a pair of rows/columns, they could find the value of a shape.


One girl wasn’t getting it though. She had heard others describe this tactic of noticing the differences between columns/rows, but it wasn’t clicking. Enter the color discs!!


The best thing about using these here is that it forced the student to focus on two shapes at a time.

Anyway, so I asked her to build the first row and first column of this one:


And she did it like this:


I moved that one yellow disc a little bit as a hint, but still nothin. So then we moved them into two columns, like this:


Eureka!! That was it. The light bulb that went on above that girl’s head was so bright, you could see it for miles. The circle has to be this because that. So obvious to her now, she didn’t stop when the last puzzle gave her a bit of trouble. With her new puzzling skills, she persevered and nailed it.  I watched her math confidence go up right before my eyes, it was amazing. She is gonna do just fine with systems, and all it took was playing with some color discs (and a cleverly designed set of puzzles, thanks for that Mimi and Kathryn).

The Spirit of Discovery


Originally posted on Mr. Owen's Team:

I recently read an interview with the late great musician Jeff Buckley.  It was posted by another teacher, Jenna Shaw, and it had a few lines that I really connected with and wanted to share with y’all.  Here, he is explaining why he doesn’t include lyrics in his album’s liner notes:

So that instead of people being compelled to read through the blueprint of the songs — instead of them looking at the dance steps ahead of time, they would just go through the dance. So that they would let the songs happen to them. Later on, they will find out what the meaning is, but for now — I mean, you know, we’re just meeting for the first time and it’s better… It’s better to grab your own reality from it right now instead of like, you know, read.

While he is talking about the music when he…

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