Math on the Mall

June 1, 2011 at 1:30 am Leave a comment

It’s been a really long time since my last post. Did I really not take a single photograph of my students since Halloween? There is a dark period in teaching that lasts from November to April of every year. I still teach my heart out, but I can’t take pictures of it.

The bright period starts as the school year is wrapping up. Suddenly the exhausting days don’t seem so bad because a break is coming. I start to get excited about making changes for the next group of students. I try to work on things that I will need when I am tired. It’s like stocking up for the winter.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. Last year, I wrote my February decimal unit over the summer. I am convinced my students would not have learned decimals if I hadn’t.

I also start to take more pictures. Like these from our field trip to the National Mall…

If you’re like me then every time you hear about something like math on the mall you think vaguely about how learning is so much better in an authentic context. But it goes at the bottom of the To DoList because it is non-essential. I wish it didn’t.

Math on the mall gets students to talk about mathematics as if they actually care about it personally. I was amazed to hear my students eagerly discuss the angle of fountain jets.

Math on the mall is memorable, and it engages students with many different interests. There is plenty to see inside at the museums and outside at the National Sculpture garden. We explored lines of symmetry and tried to estimate the volume of the sculpture shown below.

One of my colleagues has three different versions of a sheet she’s written for various visits to the mall. They have a rich variety of problems for different locations (1, 2 and 3). There is also this math on the mall sheet for highschool students.  I adapted part of the MAA field guide because it was a bit difficult for my kids. I also incorporated ideas from an NCTM article about why things are shaped the way they are. This is the student sheet I compiled:

We did the sheet on our walk from the American History museum to the US Capitol. We did not get through it all, but we had a lot of fun on what we did. It is probably easier if the teacher shows the students a wrench and a piece of paper with different shapes cut out of it. I had to print paper wrenches and paper lug nuts

Washington, DC provides so many free opportunities for learning in many different subjects. It just takes that end of year burst of energy to take advantage of it.

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G.E.T.S. Part Two Coming Back For More

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