Or: Best Lesson Ever
Or: Why It’s Nice To Have Some Totally Extraneous Skills
Or: Skip The Blah-Blah. Downloads At The End.
I know this isn’t new. I’m not the first person to ask a class to make an x-y graph out of some ripped-from-real-life event.
“Give me a graph of what happens to a bouncing ball over time.”
“Show me what happens to your height as you grow up.”
“Give me a graph of your marriage odds for each year of your life.”
This idea that we can describe things that happen with mathematical graphs isn’t new, nor is the idea that this is an effective introduction to a linear unit. I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is that it’s never been done this well.
I went out and taped ten events. They were simple. I walked down two flights of stairs. I ran up a hill. I drove my car. Each event was exactly fifteen seconds long.
I put a handout on every student’s desk with a graph ready for each event.
I played each event and then paused the video. I asked questions like, “When the clock started, was I up high or down low?”
The students started scrawling approximations of my movement and realized quickly that they couldn’t remember when I hit the next flight of stairs (was it after four seconds? five?!) and, consequently, couldn’t finish their graphs.
But I pressed play again and the same event played out, only at half speed. I embedded chapter markers throughout the DVD (by the way, it’s a DVD) so that I could replay that slow motion footage as many times as they needed.
All this time I walked from desk to desk, stamping graphs I liked.
Once we were all discussed-up and done with our graphs, I hit play for the last time. The footage played out at full speed and — I’ve got to pause here for some kind of effect — the event graphed itself above the footage.
The total effect only intensified and grew more exciting with each new event. With scaffolding that precise and a visual connection that strong, even my weakest students were drawing eerily accurate graphs.
They grew fanatical about accuracy, asking me to replay the footage five times for one particular event. Some became ornery when I couldn’t come and check out their productions.
There are a lot of good ways to start a linear unit, I realize, but this felt like Shaq set a screen and sent me flying down the court. The progression through the unit is obvious to me now and we’ve been murdering the material in the days since this lesson.
I used Photoshop and Motion for the graph work. Final Cut Pro to sequence things up and DVD Studio Pro for the pretty menu. In the pantheon of paid video projects I’ve completed this year, this forty-five minute math lesson holds its own and I’d like to put it your hands.
- Elevation vs. Time [.mov, 8.6mb]
- Elevation vs. Time #2 [.mov, 8.1mb]
- Elevation vs. Time #3 [.mov, 8.4mb]
- Elevation vs. Time #4 [.mov, 9mb]
- Elevation vs. Time #5 [.mov, 8.7mb]
- Pain vs. Time [.mov, 8.5mb]
- Speed vs. Time [.mov, 8.9mb]
- Speed vs. Time #2 [.mov, 8.4mb]
- Elevation vs. Time #6 [.mov, 8.5mb]
- Distance vs. Time [.mov, 8.5mb]
- Handout [pdf]
- License and Instructions [pdf]
The Complete Package
- Graphing Stories, Vol. 1 [.zip, 84.1mb]
The Deluxe DVD
- Graphing Stories, Vol. 1 [zipped iso, 755mb]
If you’re all about the love, be a friend and link this post from your blog. I’ll send out 20 DVDs to the first 20 bloggers who link this up and send a mailing address to dan at mrmeyer dot com. Even if you aren’t of the mathematical persuasion, consider pointing to this post as a model of What Could Be if we’re all pooling resources.
2012 Dec 11. Please check out GraphingStories.com, which is an updated catalog of graphing stories.