Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Intro to Parabolas with Algebra 1b

You know how sometimes, you have a BASIC idea for a lesson and when you teach it, it totally exceeds your expectations?!  Yeah, that was me today.  My students walked out of here knowing more about parabolas than I've seen students know after a week of drilling the facts.  The coolest part is, we haven't even TALKED about "quadratics"!  We've been working on "factoring trinomials" by grouping and honestly, they've struggled.  But that's a topic for another post...

I just think it is awesome that I hadn't even mentioned the word "quadratic" until today and they totally picked it up and ran with it, along with lots of other info.

So, here's what we did...

1) I asked the students to take out a piece of paper.  I told them that in the upcoming chapter, we'd be exploring parabolas and that we would begin by watching some carefully selected intro-videos about parabolas.  ( I chose these 4 out of a SEA of really boring, horrible videos so be careful what you show or this could derail really quickly)

2)  I asked them to watch the videos and write down 5 things that they learned or noticed about parabolas. I was a little nervous that 5 might be too many, but it totally wasn't and I think it kept them interested because they couldn't just get 3 and then zone out.

3) At the end of each video, I asked some questions that came into my mind as the video was playing - things I wanted them to notice.  If they hadn't noticed what I was asking about, my plan was to replay the video.  To my surprise, a student asked me to replay it before I even had a chance to tell them that's what we were going to do!!  Ha ha!  They were it.

Here are the videos I showed (in order):
Our BRIEF lesson
after a video on
what a focus is and
how it helps us

Great quirky intro with no talking - just music and images

Kinda slow, but good info.  Guy talking over images - ends with a video about a bridge that collapsed in the wind because of faulty engineering.  This showed that parabolas really are important...not JUST cool.  Also points out the idea of the focus point and the role it plays in engineering.

Mario Brothers - shows the stretch/shrink and y-intercept concepts

High school students' music video project - these are not my students, but I totally wish they were!  Great focus on open up vs. open down parabolas and the fact that parabolas are everywhere.  Students asked if they could do this project for a test grade.  I thought that was a bit much, but told them that if they did it by the end of the unit, it would be worth some serious extra credit on their test.  They were stoked about that.  (And again, students ASKING for work - that shows engagement, in my humble opinion)

4)  When we were done, I had each student share a fact that they had and they couldn't repeat someone else's fact.

5) I then drew a quick sketch of some basic parabolas and asked the students what the important features were.  They named every single part that I wanted them to see without any guidance from me!  They added these basic diagrams to their notes and I asked them to color code them (since I hadn't).

These things might not seem like much to you, but remember, these are "low-level" Algebra 1 students.  They've never seen this before, but they picked it right up.  It'll be so nice to move forward, teaching how to SOLVE a quadratic without having a 3-day existential conversation about zeros - what they are and why we care about them.  This group already knows what they are and they were the ones who told me they'd be important so at least half of my motivational speech is taken care of already!

I also like that we haven't talked about SOLVING a quadratic yet.  Honestly, it was because we ran out of time and needed to test before the end of the grading quarter so we just tested factoring only, but it is totally working out!  We'll do "solving" a quadratic within it's proper context now!  That'll be so much better than teaching how to solve and THEN explaining why...*sigh*

Today, life in Algebra 1b is good.

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