Math Classroom Success Stories (16-17, T2)

Here’s a glimpse into the world of the Williston math department from the second trimester of 16-17:

Mr. Matthias: The loved the level of engagement my Engineering & Robotics students showed during the last Trimester. Students asked many questions and demonstrated success with the last set of Challenges. I will certainly miss each one of them!

Ms. Baldwin: Three students wanted some extra help before their final assessment for the Winter term. We were not able to meet in person, but planned a time to meet using Skype for Business. We spent about an hour the night before the test going over problems and addressing their questions about all that we have been studying in probability. They were able to share their screens with me and with other members of the group and I did the same with them. Our time together was extremely productive and it was so convenient to meet in this way. We got a lot of good studying done and had a few laughs at the same time. It’s good to have one more way to connect with kids and support their learning.

Mrs. Whipple: One of my students, who works really hard, was discouraged that they were not getting the grades they would have liked on every test. We worked all trimester on their strategy and their confidence when approaching the material and by the final assessment they received a near perfect score!

Ms. Schneider: One of my favorite memories from class this past trimester was when one of my students became the teacher for part of the period. We often begin class by reviewing what we have learned in our previous lessons leading up to that day. This frequently includes discussing the homework assignment. At times the students get into small groups to review; however, on this day one student came to the front and lead the class throughout this activity. She walked the class through each problem, and kept every student engaged. Not only did her classmates gain valuable insight through her explanations and leading questions, but this student, who actually is considering a career in teaching herself, showed excellent leadership skills!

Mrs. Conroy: My Geometry assessment consisted of two parts, a group portion and an individual portion. The group portion of the assessment required students to stretch their problems solving abilities while doing geometry in a collaborative setting. As I described it to the students, “There is little you can do to prepare for this section. It will challenge you. Embrace the challenge.” The first question on the group portion was particularly challenging and involved proving triangles congruent after creating a diagram from specific instructions. Each group had the correct diagram but then the problem became interesting. Not a single group earning full credit on the problem but what I witnessed in the classroom during that question was the best math we had done this year. Students were questioning each other, everyone was participating and incredible thoughts were being debated. I was thrilled to sit back, listen and watch young minds at work. Well done my Geometry students. I am proud of your fighting spirit!

Mrs. Hill: I found a stats textbook that used a real trial from 1964 to illustrate the problems of assuming independence to calculate probabilities. A woman had been mugged in CA, and the prosecutor used the assumed probabilities of a man “driving a yellow car,” and being “over 6 feet tall,” and “having a beard,” etc to calculate that the odds of the defendant NOT committing the crime were less than one in a million. Unfortunately though, as the appeals court later determined, the prosecutor was wrongly assuming independence of events when, in fact, there was no way to be sure of that fact. It was a real life example of issues of conditional probability we had been discussing in class. Moreover, we also got the chance to discuss how, in modern times, DNA evidence is based heavily on probabilities. We were not all in agreement as to the legitimacy of that approach.

Mr. Seamon: The math team has been enjoying a very active and successful year! In additions to competing in the 6 rounds of the New England Math League, returning to the Harvard Math Competition, as well as participating in the AMC8/10/12 competitions, the team has also added in the Middle School NEML competition as well as heading to Yale for their spring HS competition. Not only is the team competing in more competitions than ever, the team is scoring as well as ever currently holding strong at 28th our of 140 teams in NEML, scoring in the top 1/3 of teams at the HMMT, and also qualifying a student for the American Invitational Mathematics Exam!

Mrs. King: I have a student who has been away at ski school during the entire second trimester and will return next Monday. Before she left her family and I had a discussion about what math class she should take, an Algebra 1 class at ski school or work with a tutor to complete our curriculum. Wanting to come back fully prepared for the third trimester she chose to work with a tutor and complete our notes, homework, quizzes and tests. I set up One Note Notebooks for both her and the tutor. After a little bit of a slow start she was off and running. The tutor and I communicated each week about what was due, what was coming up or any questions or concerns that we had. The tutor was wonderful and read all of the notes and assisted Arden after she did her assignments. Arden did a great job! It was great that she was willing to take on extra work so that she would be able to transition back into class next week. I can’t wait to have her back in class.

Ms. Smith: At the end of our unit on transformations of functions, my Pre-calculus students spent a class period designing a mathematical roller coaster. That is, using their knowledge of the parent functions and transformations, they created one continuous, piecewise-defined function that traced the vertical height of the roller coaster with respect to horizontal distance travelled. As students discovered, the trickiest part was ensuring that the functions linked up, that is, there were no unplanned gaps in the track. However, after a period of work there was a wide range of functions (or should I say roller coasters). Highlights included underground tunnels, death drops, and even a loop-the-loop made using logarithmic, exponential and even elliptic functions.

Mrs. McCullagh: We finished the winter trimester with a project in Calculus. The assignment was for each student, or student pair, to decide what they wanted to hang and from where and then find the minimum amount of wire needed to hang their object. They needed to decide how far apart their two attachments should be and how far down they wanted the object suspended. They needed to find, using calculus, the minimum amount of wire needed for their own scenario. It is a challenging calculus problem for students as they are learning how to solve maximizing/minimizing problems. Then they needed to present their findings with all calculations clearly shown and diagrams labeled with the minimum and extremes. They also needed to produce a model made to scale. The projects were outstanding! We had a target hung from a tree, donuts hung for a birthday party, a chair hung is a bedroom, a rubber ducky hung (just because), as well as a number of others. The students all reported that they learned a lot from the project. It is great to have their work on display!

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