Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to School Update

So I did the cup exploration the first day of school with my Geometries and Precalcs.  I didn't do the theatric hangman intro that I had dreamed up.  It didn't seem like me

Kids wrote down great "I wonder" statements.
-I wonder why the cup rolls in a circle.
-I wonder how the shape of the cup affects the way it rolls.
-I wonder if bigger cups roll in bigger circles.
Some kids thought of cones and cylinders (extreme cases) right away.
One kid came up with the idea of his cup being a truncated cone.
Kids worked together.
Kids had good intuition about how oddly shaped cups would roll.
Kids thought about what was important to measure at the end when I was about to collect the cups.
Kids came up with ideas of slant affecting the roll and the difference/ratio of the size of the top circle to the bottom circle.
Kids wanted to "do this all year".  (Maybe because it's low-pressure?)

Even after I explained why we were doing a "pointless" exploration (foster curiosity, researching theories, growing the creative part of our brain) some kids complained.
Some kids were off task unless I was with them asking probing questions.
Toward the end of the day, I responded to apathy with entirely too much help and prodding.  Not sure how to avoid this - most of my questions got bored looks in response.

I wish I had a greater variety of cups.  I found some bowls which really promoted some ideas.  More variety might make kids more curious too.

Happy Dance:
-A girl brought in some plastic martini/wine glass style cups the second day.  The kids predicted which would roll a bigger circle.  And they were right!  And it made the biggest circle of any cup I had - they even knew why.  :)
-I got pretty excited when I started to wonder what the square bottom/circle top cups I left at Walmart would do.  I wonder if they'd roll a polygon.  If so, I wonder if I could figure out what type.

I'm glad I was given permission from the online community to end class without having a nice tidy answer to all of our wonderings.  I'll bring it back with similar triangles when the time comes in geometry.  With precalc, who knows.  I tried to drive home the point with the kids that it's the thinking process, not necessarily the solution, that is valuable.

Letting them work freely and cooperatively gave me a quick look at which classes would benefit from a seating chart.  Day 2 went pretty darn smoothly because of this!

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