Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 141: Applied Trigonometry

Apparently, allergies make you look like Hitler...

The Scene: 31 hours before school is closed for  5 days.
The Mood: Anxious

"What would you ever use trig for?" he asked me morosely, not having any idea about my plans for the following day!
"I have no idea. Maybe we'll figure it out" I replied, having a clear plan for the following day.

**cue steepled fingers and foreshadowing look into the camera**

The Scene: 7 hours before school is closed for 5 days.
The Mood: Barely contained excitement (mostly on the part of the teacher)

My geometry students built clinometers!

During the first class, we used washers, string, straws and protractors to create a device that would measure the angle of inclination or depression from our eyes to an object.  We did a quick introduction on how to operate and properly read the device and how to take the calculations to determine the height of an object that was some distance away.

During the second period, we went into the gym!

Working in pairs, students picked four objects around the room, measured the angle of inclination and recorded it on their data sheets.  Then, once I could get to them, we measured the horizontal distance to the objects and, through the power of mathemagic, were able to find the height of the objects!

I cannot express how well this activity went!  During the introduction, I did an example and measured the height of the ceiling.  I messed up the angle measure twice while the kids watched so I got to talk about the importance of precision and accuracy as well as running multiple trials.  They also got to see my thought process on how I correct my mistakes.

In the gym, they picked a wide variety of objects, not the just obvious ones like the basketball net, the scoreboard and the windows.  They picked points on bleachers, clocks, security cameras, chin-up bars, etc.  They worked hard and well, checking their answers with their partners and engaging in the "does that answer make any sense?" discussion.

I was VERY proud of them and VERY impressed with their work.  After the success we had today, I have confidence that they can handle an activity on parallax, which would be a similar activity, except in the dark...

Now I just need to figure out how to set it up in a way that would effectively demonstrate the proper use.  It will clearly need an intro lesson, but I need to decide how much to reveal before do the activity.

I LOVE hands-on activities, especially in math where students are often unaccustomed to it.

The pre-algebra students took a quiz today.  It was a 4 question, open-ended quiz and they could work with a partner, but each person had to turn in their own work. Even this late in the year, I'm still trying to get them to do more than just calculation.  I haven't given up on them, but I am easing them back towards where I want.

I think that my major short-coming with that class this year has been my desire to move them out of their comfort zones WAY too quickly.  I know they are capable of amazing things, but throwing them in the deep end of the metacognitive pool was probably not the best choice.  A few of them swam, a few flailed about for help, inadvertently slapping their would-be rescuers, and some angrily crossed their arms and sat at the bottom of the pool.

We spent the last week or two in the shallow end and they did very well.  Now, I am slowly trying to walk them into deeper water.

I started the class by helping them to review ANY questions from the chapter that concerned them.  They asked some good ones and we talked again about how to effectively set up fractions using words first.

Period 4/5 (with half of the students missing) worked VERY well in the partner groups.  There were side conversations happening, but they were mostly on task and working quietly.  This was one of the first times this year that I felt they truly cared about doing well.

It was short-lived, but it was a step in the right direction!

Period 8/9 did not do as well.  Three or four students simply refused to stop talking in spite of my repeatedly asking them to.  The behavior of the two pre-algebra classes between yesterday and today seemed to have flip-flopped.

In addition to all of this, I found out this morning that I was nominated for a Bammy Award!  I am deeply honored that someone, let alone several, feel that what I write is good enough for an award.  If you feel so as well, you can vote here.  I would greatly appreciate it.


  1. Oh man! I forgot about making clinometers in 8th grade science! Our teacher had us find the angle for the North Star, because it tells you your latitude...


      This is the activity I want to do! I'm not sure how to adapt it for 8th grade, but it will have to do with fire and a dark auditorium!


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