My Last Like My First

I made a four-day weekend out of it, drove down south, and cleared my head. We still have two-and-a-half weeks out here at SLVHS so keep your crowing low, ‘kay?, but I’ve got a good exit strategy and inspiration struck me several times on my way to Los Angeles. (Better inspiration than a semi in the oncoming lane, I always tell my kids, nyuk.)

Here’s the fun stuff that’s been happening since:

Effective Wipes

You think of wipes, you think of the traditional Star Wars application, a feathered line moving across the screen, transporting you from one part of the galaxy to another far far away. Wipes are so impossibly badass, though, and so underutilized, particularly by those Wookie movies.

See, wipes are best applied to similar settings, to move you between nearly identical slides, to quickly and easily create a sense of motion.

Take, for example, the cross-country road trip we set up between Santa Cruz, CA, and Providence, RI. I took a screenshot of Google Maps with and without the road map, set ’em on consecutive slides, and then set a slow wipe between ’em. The result: a ten-second trip across the country. I had kids come up beforehand and scribble the route as well as they could imagine.

Something else I won’t have to do next year.

Thank You, Flickr.

We’ve been working through these linear problems at an absolute crawl. I give ’em two facts from a linear scenario, barely plausible fabrications mostly, and ask them to extrapolate that information to answer a question. It’s been hell. I should’ve put my no-homework inclinations on hiatus for this unit. They need so much practice and the challenge, then, has been to find new ways to dress up these problems so I can come back to them every day with the exact same task and not spend the entire period deflecting sharpened pencils.

So rather than toss five problems up on the overhead (again) I clicked through Flickr’s Interesting Photos page until a linear question kinda leapt at me. Then I downloaded the photo, developed the question, and threw it on top of the photo in Adobe Photoshop.

I uploaded the photos to the drugstore adjacent my coffee shop, walked over after about thirty minutes, and paid a little under ten dollars for ten problem sets. The next day, I divided the class into groups and passed out photo packets. No one was fooled, obviously. This was the same old grind but we all agreed it had never looked prettier.

Something else I won’t have to do next year.

Son of Graphing Stories

We have a week to wrap up some loose threads and one of the most fun, important problems in Algebra is still outstanding:

A runner takes off from the starting line. A second runner waits ten seconds and then sprints after her at a faster pace. When does the second runner catch up to the first?

The problem isn’t terribly complicated and I’m pretty sure I could’ve spoken the question aloud, pointed to the intersecting graph, repeated the question, and pointed to the graph again, and we would’ve been on our way. But why let a little work stand in the way of actually showing them the problem, particularly when I could involve the cheesiest video gimmick ever, one which prompted twenty students to ask me over the course of a day if I had a twin brother.

[qt: 480 376]

Click to play.

Click for a larger, classroom-ready version.

Click for the relevant handout.

This is gonna sound deranged, particularly when I’ve got over a fortnight ’til summer break, but I can hardly wait for next year.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. I love the video – it will be waiting in the in-boxes of my math teachers when they return in the fall.

    So just to clarify – you DON’T have a twin brother??

  2. Dan,

    Thanks for another great lesson to use next year!

    Just curious – how long did that take to tape & edit?

  3. If I hadn’t saved the template from last time it would’ve taken 18 hours again, which, no thanks, right?

    As it was:

    30 minutes to set up and tape;
    20 minutes to import, edit down to 15 seconds, and make that dorky duplication happen;
    15 minutes to drop the new footage in over the old and change the axes;
    2 hours while I was sleeping to let Compressor churn out two QuickTime files.

    Taping woulda been at least 50% faster had it not occurred to me to include that little wave hello at myself. Glad you and Scott found it worthwhile.