Monday, October 12, 2009

Week of 10/5 - Post #1 on Student Experience

On Wednesday my CT did an activity to help kick off recursive functions. Students were given a graph of data: column 1 was the number of bounces and column 2 was the height of each bounce. Students were asked to graph the data, find the ratio between each bounce and model the sequence of numbers with a recursive formula. There was not much of an intro to the lesson. Mostly it was "now we're doing recursive functions" and "here's the activity for the day." I've been thinking a lot about how student experiences can be brought more into the classroom and what kind of experience is most meaningfully to the students and mathematically. Ideally this lesson could be done with an actual ball and perhaps with motion detectors to collect the height of the bounces first hand. But even if motion detectors were not available, there are a few ways this lesson could involve more student experience. First off, kids could see a demo of a ball bouncing repeatedly (or each group could get a ball to bounce if there are enough balls). Rather than going straight to max. bounce height (the graph of which may not be intuitive to some students), they could be asked to approximate a graph of height vs. time which would consist of a series of parabolas smooshed side by side. Then from their first graph they could be asked to sketch a graph of just max height of bounce vs. # of bounces. This graph could be compared with actual data, and students can then talk about whether or not their observations/intuition were correct. These are just some preliminary thoughts about how to bring in student experience and mathematical intuition. My questions are: would bringing in this kind of demo/hook be meaningful to students? From personal experience, my answer is that it would be to some. Some really like physics-oriented demos and experiments, and when I taught physics most students could be drawn in. But then what about the students who prefer connections that are more social or emotional in nature? I will keep pondering this issue...

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