Friday, September 20, 2013

Playing Games, Part 1

I was really in awe earlier this week when local hero Christopher Danielson posted about sameness in his college algebra class.

Vending machines as functions is really intuitive.  And neat.  Easy to talk about their domains and ranges.  Easy to talk about their rules of assignments.

I was less excited about whether or not the change machine is a true identity function.  That's the topic that took over the comments, and frankly I'm getting bored writing about it.  Perhaps that's a personal shortcoming.

But as an IB Higher Level Math teacher about to put formal definitions on functions and then embark upon compositions and inverses, I thought, "I wonder if it's worth trying to relate vending machines to functions?"  "How can I bring this into my class?"  "Is there anything to be gained?" And, "How could we relate this in a way that's efficient, engaging, and relevant?"

And then the Brunswick Zone walked into my brain.
Turns out the BZ doesn't give out tokens tickets anymore.  (That's very 1995.)  They use a card now.

I had four days to turn this crackpot idea into something meaningful.

So today when we went over there to win points (the e-equivalent of tickets) and then prizes, I gave them this e-worksheet:

(This form is live, by the way, so feel free to contribute if you live near a Brunswick Zone.)

My verbal instructions were probably a bit simpler.

We want to build our collective intelligence about the transactions that occur at the BZ.  (Money to card, card to points, points to prize.)  Take as many pictures or videos as you can of the possibilities of each transaction so that we can collectively begin to understand them.

Well, maybe that wasn't simpler, not sure.

Bottom line is, we got a lot of cool information that will be useful, relevant, and enhance student understanding of functions.  Take this for example:

A lot of possibilities when it comes to putting money on a card.  A new card, by the way, costs $1.  So if I went with the $5 option, really I'd have to spend $6.

Ok, got my card and ready to go.

Off to the games.  I really rocked this one:


40 tickets is a good haul, that spin alone could have gotten me a Spongebob Squarepants ball.

All in all, I'm hoping we can pool our experiences to come up with some really cool questions.

What would a function look like for putting money onto a card?  The domain?  Range?  Rule of assignment?
What would the functions look like for getting points onto your card?
What about for turning points into prizes?
And then we have games like this?  You win the prize straight up, no points at all!  (I lost $4 trying to get a giant husky.)

And then there's this points, no prize!


If you're curious to see what images we've captured, check out our photo gallery.

I haven't written the lesson plan for Monday yet, but I believe I have plenty of raw materials.  Stay tuned for part 2.

Monday, September 2, 2013

#Made4Math: Charging Station

I don't often participate in the #Made4Math series, but when I do I got over the top.

Problem: Students are constantly on their cell phones during lessons.
Problem: Students are scavenging around the school for outlets where they can charge their phones.  This results in cords and phones on the ground where I trip over them.

Solution: The charging station.  Kids, charge your phones in my class.  Plug it in at the beginning of class and it'll be all charged up at the end.

Here's what the idea looked like in my head:

When I was at Menards getting materials, it dawned on me that it would be useful to have the outlets facing forward and also to have one on each shelf.  That way if someone has one of those boxy transformer chargers they can go there.

At this point let me stops and say a few words about Menards.  I worked at Menards in high school and college.  It was the third job I ever had and I loved it.  I later transferred to a different store - in fact the busiest Menards of all the Menards and my managers were real jerks.  So I didn't love the job any more and quit working there.  I still love Saving Big Money with my BIG card at Menards though.  Way better than the Home Depot.

I think I need to digress a little further before I get back to the charging station.  After the transfer, there was a guy in my department who was a real weirdo.  He'd be down the aisle from me (and others) and give them the "SUCK IT" gesture and yell "NEW WORLD ORDER!"  (This was when Hulk Hogan was in his Hollywood Hulk Hogan phase and it was a big deal on the WWF.)

One day I was up cleaning some shelves when this guy spit on my ladder.  Well I wasn't having any of that so I sprayed him with the cleaner I was using.  He ran, I ran after him.  We were in full-on sprints.  He slipped and fell, and I stood over him on the ground spraying him with this Windex or whatever it was.

Then the store manager walked by.  We were reprimanded and I might have even been suspended for a couple of weeks.

The only reason I bring this up is that this weirdo and I both now work in the same school district.  He's a physics teacher over at Osseo Senior High.  I think this is his twitter, but he doesn't use it for too much as far as I can tell.  He's actually a pretty funny guy.  Sometimes it's bizarre what can happen in this world.  I didn't even know I was going to be a teacher back then.

OK, back to the charging station.  I made it on the cheap.  Here's the materials list:

6 1x6 3 foot standard boards (pick some good ones) [$0.99 ea]
2 1x6 4 foot standard boards (pick some good ones) [$1.34 ea]
1 Box of wood screws [$3.29 ea]
5 electrical boxes [$0.19 ea]
5 outlets [$0.58 ea]
5 outlet wall plates [$0.19 ea]
1 roll of electrical wire [$7.97 ea]
1 three pronged plug [$1.99 ea]
1 can of discount paint (oops clearance paint) [$5.00]

And then I went to Big Lots for the power strips and saved a dollar each.

5 power strips [$4.00 ea]

So this thing cost me in total $51.67 plus tax.  I actually had the screws and electrical wire lying around from another project so I made this for a grand total of $40 or so.  The power strips are what cost the most.

Here's the process:

Phase 1: Assemble the shelving.  No cutting required since the two sides are the same size (4 feet)  and all of the wood shelves are the same length (3 feet).  Make sure to drill pilot holes for your screws so they don't split the wood.

I went with 3 screws for the top & bottom and 2 screws for each shelf in the middle.  We are not putting heavy objects on here so we don't need more than that.  The distance between the shelves is not uniform.  I wanted one larger one for an Ipad or whatever, but the others are about 8-9 inches apart.

Phase 2: Paint it.

Phase 3: Assemble & install the electrical.  You'll need to drill holes for the cords to go through the bottom and each shelf.  Putting the electrical together is a lot of fun.  The black cord has all of the power (ironic), and it always goes on brass.


For every box except for the top one, you'll have two sets of wires coming in: one from the top and one from the bottom.  These outlets are fitted for two sets of cords but for some reason only one ground screw.  I looked on the internet to figure out what to do and it said I should wirenut the two grounds together with a third and hook that third wire to the outlet.

Notice that I put a little piece of wood between the boxes and the side?  That's a buffer area so the faceplate will fit.  I just used some scrap wood that was lying around.

The other thing that I did not take a picture of is that you'll need to connect the end of the wire coming out of the bottom to the plug you bought.  That's pretty easy.  Remember, black goes on brass.

Phase 4: Mount the power strips.

It's upside down in this picture.  The power strips are actually above the shelves, mainly so cords don't get tangled up.

Phase 5: Mount to the wall.  I haven't mentioned these, but I put little plywood squares in the corners because I knew I would be mounting it to the wall.  How you mount this thing will be very particular to the wall and location of the mounting, so the process might be different for you.

At my school we have brick walls so I need to bring out the masonry bits and push hard (or long).  They heat up so when I'm drilling holes in the wall sometimes they bend.

But after drilling the proper holes into the wall, the mounting was a piece of cake.

(Sorry about the crappy pictures.  I'll have to bring in a better camera for more vibrance.  I am rocking a really old slider right now.)

So there it is.  I wonder how long it will take admin to tell me to take it down.