Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Highway To ????

Year 10 and I are goin' on a road trip!!!!!!!! Not literally of course. That would be a virtual road trip in order to........er..........funnily enough Himself asked me the same question this evening.

HS: So what are you actually trying to teach them through
this virtual road trip?
Me: Nothing! I am simply trying to engage them in a meaningful activity which involves them having some sort of opportunity to use maths in a meaningful way! If they happen to learn anything along the way I will be
giving mighty thanks I can tell you!!

Of course, Year 10 asked me if we were actually going on the trip. Of course they did. Bless them. So did my Head of Maths. "Are you taking them away for the term?" he asked straight faced. He is very amusing for a mathematician.

To backtrack a bit. Do you remember I mentioned that I'd made a step towards engaging the kids a bit more? Well it turns out that the mother of one of Small Boy's 'Street Mates' (yes, the four that are always at our house) is a maths teacher at quite a prestigious school here in Adelaide. I did know this but like many maths teachers, I had failed to put two and two together and realise that she just may be a great resource for me!

On the middle weekend of the holidays we were taking the boys to the football and she called in to drop her son J off.
"You're a maths teacher," I stated. (duh!) "Do you have any good ideas for projects to motivate failing learners?"
"Funny you should ask! I won a prize last year for 'Motivating Middle school Maths'."
(Chorus of angels start singing "Won't you come home Bill Bailey.....")

Generously, she gave up her Sunday afternoon to sit with me and share units of work, bounce around ideas and generally commiserate over the poor skills of my Year 10 class. As I had suspected, every idea she shared would have to be modified mightily before my babies had a snowball's chance of grasping it but some of those ideas were so creative she got ME excited!

For example, she worked with a Year 10 group, one year, to produce a Murder Mystery Film involving a whole lot of crime scene investigation maths: measuring handprints and heights and developing a generalisation about ratios between the two; measuring the drop in temperature in a cup of coffee over time in order to pinpoint the time of the crime; analysing the shape of fake blood splatters in order to determine direction and height of impact etc etc. How brilliant is that?

Unfortunately, most of the activities she had planned assumed prior knowledge waaaaaaay above the level of my Year 10s. Nevertheless, she had other great ideas and we were able to bounce modifications off each other. For example, I mentioned that I'd thought of trying a 'World Trip' with the kids where they had to : look up the cost and availability of flights, book accommodation within a budget, read a timetable enough to get around a foreign town etc etc.
She had done an 'Around Australia' trip with a group of kids at another college and suggested I start with this. Thinking more carefully about my own group I realised I would probably be better off starting with an 'Around SOUTH Australia' trip. Hell, we probably shouldn't even consider leaving Adelaide!!! :-D

We also came up with a few ideas for other projects which I may try with Year 9 who have a better skill level.

And so I bravely introduced the idea to the students today (well, half of them anyway. As usual many of the class were absent) and guess what? They seem enthused by the idea! We had some terrific discussion around the question of which car would be best to take. Fuel economy/efficiency was a hot topic and, interestingly, many of the boys had not heard the expression although they certainly understood the concept once I demonstrated it. Some were amazed to learn that loading up a car with luggage and passengers would increase the fuel consumption. Some were amazed to learn the word 'consumption'!

We had a whole discussion around accommodation. Would the initial cost of hiring a caravan be offset by savings on hotel rooms? What about sleeping the in back of your car? Do pubs in the country offer accommodation? What do caravan parks charge for electricity?

In their typically chaotic style, the question of 'where to go' did not come up until the end of the lesson.

Even with this level of interest and engagement I had to stop them 15 minutes from the end of the lesson to do a few aerobics on the spot. They just couldn't quite sustain concentration for the whole double. This aside it was a promising start. We now have to suspend activities for a few lessons while we complete some Vocational Interest Questionnaire which will assist the staff in steering the kids toward subject choices next year. I have opted to do this over two lessons to try and keep up the inertia we have developed through today's lesson by devoting half the double to work on the project.

So wish me luck. So far it's been ok although I stayed back until after 6pm tonight sorting out my 'new' room :-( cos I didn't do it in the holidays. I hate not knowing where everything is.

Have a great week everyone and I'll check back in when I've got all these exams marked!

image credit


Anonymous said...


Good luck with your creative math project!

That sparked something from my memory bank. One of my children, in 5th grade, had to do a project on how he would spend one million dollars. The students couldn't invest the money to make more money. They had to SPEND IT!

So they had to do presentations on how would they spend it. If they said a world tour, they had to document airline costs, hotel costs, car rentals, sightseeing excursions, etc. (Thank goodness for the internet!) If they said a BIG HOUSE, they had to provide some specifics (cost of home entertainment theater system, other ammenities, etc).
Certainly this could (and should) be modified because that was a HUGE sum of money for the kids to "spend." Many were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project and they short changed the research. (too much) (Not too mention pretty unrealistic....)

You might be able to do something like that. Or do a household budget experiment. What's their dream job? How much does it pay? What car can they have? Where can they live? Better yet, they don't chose their jobs (they'd all be millionaires and there'd be nothing to budget), you put jobs into a hat and they pull one out. They have to create a budget around it.

Anyway - best wishes for your "TRIP." Hope the enthusiasm holds!

ktjrdn said...

I'm so excited for you. and them. This sounds like a perfect way to get them motivated a little. Because surely they've got to see that the math involved is useful, right?

I hope it works out as well as it seems.

HipMomma said...

Now that the kind of lesson I would love! Good luck, it really does sound like a lot of fun. And of course admin. paperwork will spoil the fun everytime.

Christina said...

I wish I'd been taught this way! It sounds FUN!

A Free Man said...

So what are you actually trying to teach them through this virtual road trip?


Good for you for trying something different.

Georgiegirl 29 said...


In the 1920's in Chicago that was
very serious G.