From a height just shy of 16 ft (190.5 in), two groups made amazing drops today:
Super proud of my classes today.
Let's start off with a little reality check. Almost none of what goes on in my classroom is new. I beg, borrow and steal from every brilliant teacher I meet. Barbie bungee has been around at least since the late 1990's--that's when I first encountered it.
However, newness or uniqueness has nothing to do with student engagement. Students eat this stuff up! The last time I had a student ask me when we were every going to use this was when we were calculating percentages for tips in a restaurant. Eh, it probably happened when we were looking at rational functions last year but I bet I blocked it out to pretend I was doing a better job with that unit than I actually was.
For weeks in advance I have students bring in their childhood Barbie dolls. This year I even had some of the staff raid their kids' toy boxes. Even though we do all sorts of other experiments while we wait for the stock of plastic dolls to reach a critical mass, this experiment is what the kids are waiting for.
I don't give a lot of directions with this activity. At this point, we've spent the last two weeks looking at messy data. We've gotten really good at making lines of best-fit and then creating an equation from two points on the graph.
This is the only slide I put up on the screen. We talk about how I will drop the Barbies come show time--feet touching the bottom of the board. We talk about some way to get Barbie's hair to stay down so we can get good measurements. We talk about being respectful of other classes while we're in the halls. And then they go for it. We spend the rest of the first day gathering data, creating scatter plots, drawing lines of best-fit, creating equations and figuring out how many rubber bands we will need to get as close to the ground as possible.
After a couple of years I started requiring some certain work in order to meet my objectives. Each student must: gather data, make a scatter plot, create a line of best fit, find the equation for the line of best fit, and show work for finding the number of rubber bands they want to use.
On the second day--the day of truth--I begin class by asking for some help.
-a videographer (uses my iPad): We use this for instant replay while I'm on the roof. Any disputes get settled quickly by going back to the video.
-a photographer (uses my phone): I attended a technology conference years ago. The keynote speaker--whose name escapes me at the moment--said if we don't tell our stories someone else will. It's why I started blogging. It's the day I got a Twitter account. I want my parents and my admin to know the awesome things that go on in my class. I want to steer the conversation in the direction I want it to go rather than hope my principal comes in on a 'good'; day.
-2 measurement experts: These are the folks that are in charge of the scoreboard. They corral everyone into putting their group names on a piece of masking tape and then placing the masking tape at the appropriate height on the scoreboard. All while I'm on the roof.
And of course, if you give students your devices, they will take selfies. *sigh* I deleted lots of them this year.
You don't have to use a roof. I've done it from the ceiling of my class. I use a roof for the spectacle. I want students to feel like this is special compared to what we normally experience in a school day. Plus, the kids from the other classes stare out the windows and wish they were in math class. Love it.
My videographers hard at work. Plus a student who had slow motion capabilities on her phone so she volunteered to help out.
Here's an example of instant replay on the iPad. I ask students to take screenshots of the close ones so I can fire off an email at the end of the day to parents without having to sift through all of the pictures.
One of the side benefits of taking video is that people outside my classroom get to hear the students' reactions to math class. Never underestimate the power of a parent hearing their child squeal with delight in your classroom. I've seen tears of joy on more than one occasion.
It's not that I'm a better math teacher than most. I decided to start telling my own story instead of letting my students, my admin, or the broader culture tell it for me. The rest of the world doesn't know the awesomeness that is math class.
This year I find myself teaching a class called Algebra 1B. It's basically the second half of Algebra 1--except that I have almost the whole year to teach it. So pretty much, almost every activity I've ever collected I get to do with these kiddos. Here's our last two weeks together.
Next week: Barbie Bungee Jump
I had enough requests for pictures that I made our 1st Barbie Bungee extravaganza into a video.
This last week we ended our focus on linearity in Algebra 1 (finally!). The Barbie Bungee has been around for as long as I've been a teacher (I had conversations with other teachers about it back in 2001). I've never done it before because generally because of my deficit in Barbie dolls. Well, this year I decided I wasn't going to let a little thing like having no Barbies stop me from doing a fun math lesson. I put out an all-call for Barbie dolls, preferably with their clothes (I teach in a Christian school after all). The response? Nothing. Not one doll. It took some doing but I finally convinced my Algebra kids to bring in some kind of figurine to drop. Here's what they came up with.
I had a couple of guys not wanting anything to do with Barbie--hello batman and dude from Halo.
Day 1: Data collection
Gathering data and making inferences is slowly getting better as the year goes on. I guess it really comes as no surprise that the more they do it the better they get. When I do this again next year, I need to make sure they have more time to gather data and make connections. The 20 minutes we had in class after questions on homework, the intro, and gathering supplies wasn't quite enough. I had to break my vow of silence and give suggestions on data collection to a group. Maybe it would be a good idea if your collected more information than simply one drop with all of the rubber bands. No, really. I felt bad, but I did it anyway. I'm on a timeline people: can you say 7 snow days?.
Many of the groups looked at the table and found the average rate of change and the y-intercept (both the winners and the runners up did this). One group graphed the points and used the line of best-fit (I love it when they see those connections!). One group doubled their data from 7 rubber bands and saw that it wasn't enough and then tripled it. They saw that it was too much so they found the average stretch per rubber band and then took away as many rubber bands as it took to get under the height from the floor to the hook in the ceiling (282.5 cm). Novel but unfruitful. They didn't take into consideration Barbie's initial height so they ended up being pretty high off the ground when all was said and done.
Day 2: The moment of truth.
I used a hook attached to the ceiling as the starting point for out plastic daredevils.
Then we used the iPad and the Apple TV to video and show the happenings up on the screen. The video came in handy several times for the "instant replay" feature (see below).
We had a hair's difference between first and second place. Our winning group had the photo finish above right. Their Barbie's hair just touched the ground but not her little noggin. We all agreed if you got twigs in your hair on a bungee jump and didn't die, that might just be the best bungee jump ever.
All in all, this was a great project to end our study of linearity in Algebra 1.
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I teach Math and Programming at Summit Middle School in Boulder, CO.