End of the Year Projects

I have found that my best lessons and assignments arise from the shortest questions. To end the year in both Calculus and Physics I had the students do an open ended, investigative project, which is really how I would ideally like to teach my whole class. It’s fun because the students have a lot of choice, it’s much less stressful during class and, in my humble opinion, much more learning happens because they are forced to think and pick out what they think is important rather than have me do it for them. The only problem is that it’s a lot slower and really hard to ensure that all the kids are on task and actually doing something useful with their time.

I thought I’d share some of the various topics that my students did in both classes along with a video montage of the Physics projects…

Assignment: Do an investigation using Calculus of any topic that you find interesting. Your project must include real data, real video, or real images; you must use some sort of math that you learned this year; and last you must use some sort of technology.

Sample Projects (the ideas for which the students came up after a bit of brainstorming together):

  • Start a rumor that Justin Bieber is coming to Amman and track via a Facebook group how quickly the rumor spreads. Apparently it was pandemonium in the Freshman Girls’ dorm the night this project started.
  • Write Mr. Bowman a letter from his ex-girlfriend who now works at NASA and needs help calculating how long a meteor is going to take to hit the Earth using Related Rates. My favorite lines: “It’s Armageddon all over again… I still remember that was our favorite movie.” And then “Your country needs you, I need you, make us all proud. Lot’s of love, Catherine, Head of NASA Space Operations. P.S. I love you so much….” Oh yeah, and he had a girl from class record her voice reading the letter. I think I was bright red the whole time it was playing in front of the class.
  • Write a film a courtroom drama, Newton vs. Leibniz, who invented Calculus.
  • Use a math program we have called Geogebra to revolve functions around the x-axis in order to find the volume of a Coke Bottle (calculated volume: 547 mL, Actual volume: 500 mL).
  • Investigate land percentage usage for housing as a function of the size of the land area using Google Earth. This one was great – so random, but actually pretty interesting. Not surprisingly, the smaller your plot of land, the greater percentage you use for your house.
Assignment: Analyze the motion of something that moves unusually using LoggerPro (a computer program where you can mark where an object is in each frame of a movie and it will graph position and velocity for time for you, so cool) and tell me something interesting about the object’s motion in terms of position, velocity, acceleration, energy, or ______________ (insert any Physics term from the entire year).

Sample Projects:

  • Investigate the acceleration of a frisbee when thrown with three different methods. Compare these methods to each other and to simple projectile motion with no air resistance.
  • Try to determine if it is true that when a driver begins accelerating, a woman will accelerate very fast and then slow down and a man will accelerate slowly at first, then speed up. My response to that was “I didn’t know that was a thing.” They went for it and stood out at an intersection filming cars. In the end, thankfully for anyone who has a problem with gender stereotypes, it didn’t work, so they changed their project to something else.
  • While someone is Karate kicking, analyze the motion of their center of mass, their hands, their feet, and their head separately.
  • Blow a balloon up, then let it go and let it fly around the room. See what you can tell is going on from the data
Overall, I had a wonderful two weeks (one in each class) and felt like I got to know a lot of my students so much better. Below is a video montage of all of the Physics projects, showing the program that tracks the object’s motions. It’s actually pretty cool…

Cheers to free thinking and creativity!

Posted on June 12, 2011, in Calculus, Physics, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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