I was struggling to find a project for my Honors Pre Calculus class for the final six weeks. During the same week of brainstorming I discovered the Wolfram Alpha Demonstrations section and was frustrated that I did not use them in my class this year. I was also a little overwhelmed with all of the really cool activities on Wolfram Alpha Demonstrations. So, I decided to put all of this together and let my students do my leg work for me.
I assigned each student two demonstrations from Wolfram Alpha that covered topics we had covered in Pre Calculus this semester. The students had to write a paper on each topic. They were asked to find an example in their textbook to go along with the demonstration. They were also asked to present one of the demonstrations in class. This made for great final exam review.
I was so pleased with how this turned out. The presentations were great. The students worked a problem from the book on the board and then showed the Wolfram Alpha applet. The students then had to give an opinion as to how good the demonstration was and if it would help them understand the topic better had they seen it when we first covered the material. (This was purely for my benefit and for my students next semester.)
My favorite moment was when one of my students presented on the Graphs of the Six Trigonometric Functions. He told the class that he started with this applet but found this one as well: The Sound of Sine Waves. He asked me ahead of time if he could show this one as well. Of course! The entire class was engaged and I was sitting at the back of the room. They asked if there were any more demonstrations that related math and music. Of course! Although this was a 20 minute side trip, it was so worth it. I heard from several students, “I’m going home and looking these up. This Wolfram Alpha this is great!” (Tear in my eye…)
I gave the students a week to prepare and spent two days of class time on the presentations. It was so worth it and counted as my final exam review. Here is my handout for the students and a grading rubric.