Teacher Lee Briggs on technology in today's classroom. Brought to you by Weekly Reader.

Posts tagged ‘lesson’

Igloo Math

Winter has come to Wisconsin late, but I could not be happier that it is finally here. This last weekend we got hit with a few good inches of heavy, wet powder. The snow has clung to everything like thick sugar icing; the trees, barns, and houses all look like some picturesque postcard of the great white north. For one day, we had perfect packing snow at the school and I used it to create a … ahem … math lesson. We built the first igloo of the year.

Using a 6-foot ceiling as a radius, we figured out that it would need to be 12 feet in diameter. Using pi we figured out how many rows of 8-inch bricks it would take to clear the arch — 21 rows. Then the building began. We managed to get the walls five and a half feet up before a few weak bricks (which I suspect were packed by another class, less dedicated to the cause) resulted in wall failure. The next day, the temperature dropped to 14 degrees at noon, and our bricks were as hard as glass. There would be no new bricks.

We re-used them to build 2 smaller igloos, going around in circles and eventually walling a student up inside (hopefully one who is not claustrophobic) and digging out a door. Add a little water to the walls and they become incredibly strong. Other teachers might play football at recess or take kids out to the pond for skating. I build.

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My Little Welsh Pony

I am persecuted relentlessly in my school every day. Every day I drive to work I am openly mocked by my students for my way of life.

I speak, of course, of my 2007 Toyota Yaris.

Me and my ride

Greenwood, a farming town of around 1000 people, is solidly truck country. There is some debate between GM and Ford, but a man without a truck makes as much sense as a cow walking on its hind legs. My entire car fits in the wheelbase of most of my students’ beloved trucks. And for this, I am mocked.

My car has been as dependable as the sunrise, tough as a mule, and nimble as a mountain goat. It has survived every winter for the last five years, been loaded down with a week’s worth of camping gear, driven through snowstorms that dumped two feet of snow on the state, and survived a direct hit from Bambi at 70 MPH. But to my students, there is only one eliminating factor: it can’t tow.

It does not matter that I love cars, that I used to work at a racetrack, or that I have seen every episode of Top Gear. My car gets no respect in my classroom.

So I decided, in a roundabout way, to defend my little Welsh pony in a lesson on Microsoft Excel. Using Edmunds.com, my students researched a replacement for my beloved steed. The requirements were as follows:

  • The replacement has to be economical
  • The replacement has to cost under $20,000
  • It has to be cool

Using Excel’s formula functions, my students were able to use the mileage information on Edmunds to find out how much it costs me to drive any car per mile, per day, and per year. They also were able to look up information such as displacement and MSRP. They then created graphs for each of these cars and presentations that tried to ‘sell’ me on a new ride.

Imagine the spring in my step when nearly overwhelming evidence pointed right at my car as one of the best for me.

Yaris for the win!

I was happy with the runners up, which included the Ford Fiesta, Mini Cooper, and the very cool 2013 Beetle.

However, when this was presented, my students had to point out: “It still doesn’t tow.”

A typical parking lot in Greenwood

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