The STEM academy at my school is starting a Science Olympiad team this year. To recruit members, the engineering teacher and I collaborated for a roller coaster project during class. We took our students to the auditorium and put them in groups of three or four. We gave them a handout explaining the details of the activity. The students were asked to create a mock roller coaster using the supplies they were given. They were told the roller coaster would be evaluated using the following equation:
The students had to first discuss how each of the variables in the equation would affect the final score. The goal was to achieve the highest score, while creating an aesthetically pleasing roller coaster. After the student finished the roller coaster, they were asked to create their own equations that would give them a higher score. They had to defend why they weighted each item as they did and why they put it in the numerator or denominator.
We supplied each group with a piece of foam tube for track, four notecards, four straws, a styrofoam cup, and a roll of tape, and a razor blade. The students were allowed to use items in the room as supports, but not as actual parts of the roller coaster. The passengers were marbles of varying weights. The students had a great time and it was amazing to see the differences in each roller coaster. I definitely see expansion ideas for this project. Next time, the engineering teacher and I will create a store for the supplies and make the students purchase their supplies with a limited budget.
I based this idea on something I stole from samjshah. Sam does an algebra boot camp for his calculus students during the first week of school. If you have taught calculus before, you know that the calculus is easy, but most students struggle with the algebra involved in it. I transferred this idea to my Algebra 2 students.
The Algebra 2 standards in TN are overwhelming. After teaching it for 2 years, I found that most of my time was spent teaching students how to use the graphing calculator. My students do not use a graphing calculator in Algebra 1. This is their first exposure to this type of technology. This year, instead of repeating the same steps everyday and getting frustrated, I decided to do a calculator boot camp the first week.
On the second day of school, I give the students this lab on how to graph a function and change the window. It will also address how to utilize the table feature of the TI-84. On day two, students will work on finding zeros on the TI-84 and finding maximums and minimums on a graph. On the third day of the boot camp, students will learn how to input data into a table and find the measures of central tendencies. My plan is to give the students an assessment at the end of boot camp to test their calculator skills. My goal is that students have the basic skills to navigate the calculator and to give them the confidence to explore the calculator on their own. I will post on my success with this after the first week of school.