Monday, December 24, 2012

To Get Kids' Attention, Sometimes You Fast-Forward

A simple fact of life is that sometimes you have to learn basic, not-so-exciting stuff before you can move on to the really cool stuff. It's certainly true in math class. I have to get my students used to handling variables and exponents (basics of algebra) before I can teach them cool stuff like revolving functions around an axis and finding the volume of the solid formed.

What? I totally thought that was the coolest thing ever when I was in calculus.

But just because students aren't ready to dive into something yet doesn't mean I can't give them a sneak preview of things to come.

My classes recently did some activities with graphing calculators. Mostly stuff that looked like this:

Hi, we're linear equations, and we're a little boring.
While they were thrilled at using the calculators instead of graphing by hand, it wasn't all that exciting. In several classes, I put something like this on the projector while they were all working on their assignment:

Flowers! Using math! So pretty!
Trust me, even the most macho teenage boys think it's mind-blowing that you can make flowers using equations.

They're not going to learn rose curves this year. It's either next year or the year after (I need to check) that they'll cover polar functions. But kids who really wanted to know, I gave them a quick overview of how the polar graphing system works.

It got their attention, and got them asking, "What else can we do with graphs?"

And when they're asking questions, I'm happy.

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