M.A.D.! About Catapults!

Well, the Algebra students had made catapults out of tongue depressors, rubber bands, and spoons to start out our Quadratic unit a few weeks back.  So, when it came to Math 8’s jump in to Data and Measures of Central Variations, I wobbled back and forth….  scoops of M&Ms (previous year’s activity) or accuracy of cotton balls and catapults.  Catapults I had to try!  Now…  should I discuss M.A.D. first, and then let the students do the activity, or Catapults first, and then the discussion?…   Well, this year, I went with discussion first.  I know… it goes against the the grains of the teaching field these days, but it works for me and the students.

Day 1:   Journal foldable and dividers.  Kahn Academy notes on Mean Absolute Deviation (because I feel students need to practice taking notes together , recognizing what is needed to be written down, and they don’t always get this from doing it on their own), and story about my days working at Baskin Robbins, and measuring my scoops to get 4 oz right on.  Discussion entails onto what other jobs, activities require comparing data to see who is closest in accuracy. (ie baristas, chemists, sports players,…)

Day 2:  I had to make sure student knew what catapults are… so we had google slides on this, and the use of catapults  (demonstrating with videos from Lord of the Rings or the more humorous Road Runner and Coyote )Students start with class direction page.  We sketch out the activity, and then to the Hall!  In groups of 2-4, students measure 50 centimeters from the spoon (payload/cup) to the target ( a stickynote with a dot in the center).    Then they aim and fling their catapult, recording how far the cotton ball is from the target.  They record the number of cm and then go again.   Each takes turns for 5 to 10 times depending on the time and continue to record.  Then students find their MAD to see who was more consistent during the flings.

Fortunately, our awesome principal came by and asked students what they were measuring.  The groups were able to explain the measurements and why they were doing M.A.D.  One group’s quote, ” Our numbers are so much better than using the ones already given to you on a worksheet.”   Sweet!

Things to remember for next year:  More time with this activity ( It should take a full 45 min).  Some groups measured the distance the cotton ball flew, instead of how far from the target (which is important to M.A.D. concept).  I think a teacher demonstration as well as the sketch will help students grasp it better…  but then again, I liked seeing how they set up and started the activity differently.  And…  next year, prizes for the smallest M.A.D.


Seriously, You believe this about Math?!!!

First weeks are over, grades are set for the “progress report” period, and now I’m looking through the answers to “What is Math” page that my students replied to at the beginning of the year thanks to Sara VanDerWerf’s blog post.

A couple ideas were collected.  The first is pictures of students’ thoughts about mathematics.  The second idea is the definition of math, asked by students to their parents and friends:1

1. Draw a picture representing how you feel about Math:

These make me worry  but inspire me to work harder to change their minds.

These made me happy, look at the GRIT!

There were many more….

2. Ask two people what their definition of Math:

Math Is:…
How numbers interact with each other Numbers that are stupid and pointless
A way to get smarter My favorite subject
A language to describe how the world around us works The means by which most of our world operates
Numbers and actions A specific way of learning
A way of decribing the natural world and theories about things we can’t see My favorite subject and I use this skill everyday.
“A headache” but also “way to solve the problems of the world” The art of computation
The foundation for every day survival The systems and relationships between figures
The practice of using identified nubmers/formuas/equations, variables, graphs and diagrams in conjunction with each other to solve a problem that is missing a variable Something that kills you in high school and then you don’t need it
A waste of my time Magic with Numbers
A quantification of real world problems using numbers Extreme brain exertion
Addition, subtraction, multiplication,and division ….that define time, space, movement, amounts,…
Numbers fighting over letters A study which involves critical thinking and trains the brain by showing the relationships that the numbers are involved in


I hope this year is different for students, and for myself.  I hope I can draw their interests out, that they can relate mathematics to other disciplines, and that their mindset grows positively .

Week four… here we come!



#MTBos or #iteachmath — Change is hard (for me)

The other day, a math guru of our time, Dan Meyer  made a suggestion that rocked the world of math educators and my world by suggesting that we change our hashtag #MTBos to #iteachmath.   I was livid, I was hot.  Who was he to want to change things?!!!  I had worked hard to remember those 5 letters to the right of a pound sign.  I had worked at writing blogs (less often than I should) and sending notices about them to the blog-o-sphere.  What about @mpershan?  What about @samjshah?  And @k8noack? What about others who worked to bring this blogging affair together?

And then the idea that it is a “Fraternity”?…  a secret society that only a few knew of?…  Well of course!  Not the secret part per se, but a group of people, a community, “an organization or club formed for a particular purpose or activity.” who work together to better a situation – this being the teaching of mathematics….

Now, there are people who have tweeted, stating they had no idea what that hashtag meant…. Just that it was on the end of some tweets within math ideas/activities….  Well, I like to think that they would look it up, and find out more information about it, or ask!  And these are people who are on Twitter, who have gotten past the ins and outs of Twitter itself, which I found rather daunting to get started with myself.  And I’m sure they’ve looked up ideas on Pinterest (yep, it’s there, try MTBoS)

The bigger frustration:  Maybe I was just frustrated that here’s something else that has to change.  And why should one person make a change like this?  There’s a multitude in the teacher’s curriculum that’s been changing over the past few years… STEM, STEAM, ST(A-Z)M, LMS, Twitter, Flipping, Saging or Guiding, Blended Learning, PBLs, ….

And…  then…. I….  read….. the replies….  the comments…. the positive ideas….

There IS a place for both hashtags.

The #MTBoS is a place for those who enjoy:

  1.  reading of other educators ideas that have stood the test of children
  2.  empathizing with the stories that bring tears to those who read and identify with the blogger
  3.  laughing at things that have gone right, and things that have failed miserably
  4. sharing opinions, recognize their shortcomings, and introducing new ideas and beliefs

The #iteachmath is a larger affinity:

  1. a hashtag that takes educators to read other ideas and to comment
  2.  a place to share ideas and stories in 140 characters or less
  3. an identity where everyone can join in celebrating mathematics of all levels

Hmmmm….. funny how both hashtags seem very similar!

So, after 20+ years at this love, I will continue to stretch, grow, think positively, and share.