Month: April 2018

Class Auction Project – Tile Table

Every year our students create class projects to be auctioned off at our annual banquet in order to raise money for the school. The projects vary depending on the class and grade level. This year, there seemed to be a slight mix up in project ideas! With less than 2 weeks from the auction, my class had no project. Uh oh! Nothing like leaving these things to the last minute…

Several ideas were brought up for my class, and we settled on a tile project. We would have students decorate tiles, then place the tiles on a piece of furniture. Sounds great! Except we did not have any small table, shelf or other suitable piece of furniture to use! That same afternoon, I decided to stop at the Goodwill near my house on the way home. Low and behold, one of the first pieces of furniture I found was this perfect little side table! Seems like it was meant to be!

Prepping the table:

The first thing that needed to be done was give the table a good coat of paint. That weekend, I painted the legs and sides with white paint. It took a couple coats, but definitely brightened the table up. I left the table top unpainted to make sure the tiles would stick well.

DIY Tile

We went back and forth on what types of tiles would be best for the table and with the table size, decided to use 2” x 2” tiles. We needed about 80 or so tiles and it worked out for every student to do 3 tiles, leaving some tiles white. For the tile decorating, students used a technique that we found here . Can I just say, this was awesome! All we needed was Sharpies, rubbing alcohol, and paintbrushes.

First, students took their tiles and colored them with the Sharpies. Next, they took a paintbrush, and “painted” with the rubbing alcohol. This process was different for each student. Some used paint strokes, others put drops of alcohol on their tile, and some even figured out they could blow the alcohol across the tiles to make cool designs!

After their beautiful tiles had dried, I used a sealer spray to make sure the Sharpies didn’t rub off on anything. It made my entire classroom stink though, so next time I would probably try to do this outside! After allowing the tiles to dry for a day, I started arranging and gluing the tiles onto the table top. Making sure the tiles were spaced evenly took some time. I glued down an entire column and row to start, making it much easier to place the rest of the tiles.

Finishing:

Because of the coloring on the tiles, we did not want to use rough grout to fill in the rows between the tiles. This would have destroyed the kids’ beautiful designs! Instead we used caulk. And when I say “we”, I mean my dear husband. Seriously, I don’t think I could have finished this project on my own. He delicately caulked the tile area of the table and it looked awesome! He also put the last coats of paint around the top of the table with precision.

It looks beautiful! Now hopefully it will make some big bucks at our auction and be treasured in someone’s home!

Scatter Plots and Best Fit Lines

This week, my math class studied scatter plots and best fit lines. This definitely is not the most exciting concept to teach, so I looked for other ways for students to become more engaged. Lucky me, I found several activities that were a big hit!

Scatter Plots

The first concept that students needed to learn was how to create a scatter plot. As eighth graders, students were familiar with creating a scatter plot from given information. However, I wanted to challenge them to look at the association of the graph. Is it linear or nonlinear? Positive, negative or no association?

Once the class felt pretty confident in identifying these types of associations, I gave them an activity that really peaked their interests: favorite foods! This activity is a word document created by Erica Chauvet from Trinity High School. 

First, students individually rank their favorite foods from 1 to 10. Next, students pair up and create coordinates based on what their favorite foods are in order to compare them. They plot their coordinates and look at the graph to see what type of association they have! Strongly linear graphs would demonstrate more similar tastes in food!

Best Fit Lines

The next step meant teaching students about the best fit lines. I knew this concept would challenge a few of my students, so I wanted to show them the concept of WHY this was important. I believe this game was one of my best finds yet! XP Math has several games for students in all grade levels, and Naruto: Line of Best Fit had students learning math without even knowing it! In fact, I had several kids go home and play that night on their own!

The idea of the game is to help Naruto capture as many scrolls as possible by moving the line. Students are then introduced to the concept of creating a line that will be in the middle of the most points possible-the same idea of a best fit line! When I introduced best fit lines the next class period, I actually continually referred to making their lines “like Naruto” and capturing as many “scroll” points as possible!

Taking It Further

I wanted to stretch some students even further in their thinking of these concepts, and I found one more activity that would help with this on Desmos.com. If you have never used this website for math activities, try it now! Teachers can give students a login code and once each individual logs in, the teacher can monitor the progress on their own screen! When I have students do an activity here, I know exactly which question each student is on AND can see their answers. There are options to “freeze” all students’ screens when you need to explain something or “pace” students so they can not go through the questions too quickly!

Anyway, there was an activity that related to best fit lines on Desmos as well. The activity got students thinking about residuals as well, which was above our 8th grade standards, but a great introduction to future math concepts!

If you teach a middle school math class, I encourage you to check out some of theses resources! Even if you do not need to teach scatter plots, these have great options for other math concepts as well!

 

 

Population Extinction Game

Last week I posted about how to simulate counting populations using the “Capture-and-Release-Method.”  (Click here to see!) This week, continuing on the population theme (and using dried beans in the classroom), I wanted to share a population extinction game!

I found this activity on tes.com, which is a site that contains many different lesson plans for teachers. And it is free to register! Click here to see the lesson (although you may have to sign up to actually see it).

The activity uses the Wild Atlantic Sturgeon as an example population, however you could adapt it to any type of animal you would like. The link directs you to the instructions for the game, and a simple game board – a paper with boxes numbered 1-6. It also includes a chart where students can record their data.

Materials needed:

  • Instruction sheet, game board and data sheet (can be downloaded for free from the website!)
  • 20 small items of something (I used beans, but the instructions say paper clips)
  • A cup of extra items for each group (they may need more!)

Procedure:

  1. Give each group of students 20 beans (or whatever you chose to use) to start off with.
  2. Students toss/drop the 20 beans onto the game board
  3. Any beans that land on sections 1 and 3 are considered “extinct” and are removed from the game.
  4. Any beans that land in section 5 “reproduce” so you add another bean for each.
  5. Beans that land on any of the other squares are kept with no changes.
  6. Students record their numbers in the chart provided, then repeat steps 2-4 with any beans they have left for 10 total rounds.

Over time, students should notice the amount of their sturgeon slowly declining!

Discussion questions to use:

  • What years did you gain the most?
  • What years did you lose the most?
  • Did your population of sturgeon become extinct? Why are why not?
  • If so, how many years did it take?
  • Why do you think your population declined?

Capture and Release! Estimating Population

Just how do scientists know how many deer live in an ecosystem? How did they figure out the number of giraffe live in the African savanna? Where do ecologists get these numbers from?

These are some of the questions that my class discussed while studying changes in population and population density. Students guessed how this was accomplished: using satellites, sending people out to look around a lot, catching some of the animals and then bringing them back to the wild, looking at a small area, then estimating.

Although some responses seemed more on track than others, I wanted students to simulate one way scientists do this! The capture-mark-and-release method is the one we chose to try. And because I already had a bag of dried beans from a different lesson, that is what we used as our population!

Materials 

  • Dried beans (these represent the “animal”. You can also use dried pasta, packaging peanuts, or another low cost, small item that can easily be marked)
  • A bag or other container
  • Marker

Set up:

Before beginning the activity, I had divided up the beans into cups for each group of 2 to 3 students. I did not count the number, but used a few handfuls.

I created a chart for students to use like the one below

Estimating Populations Chart

Procedure:

  1. Students first grab a handful of beans from their cup and mark each one that they removed with a marker. Count how many beans were marked and record this on the chart.
  2. Return the marked beans into the container and shake the beans.
  3. Grab another handful of beans from the container.
  4. Count how many total beans are in the new sample, and then how many marked beans were in the sample. Record both numbers on the chart.
  5. Using the formula below, students calculate how many beans are estimated to be in their container.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 again, recording the numbers on the chart.
  7. Once students have recorded the data, the group can make one final estimation of how many total beans they believe to be their container.
  8. Finally, students count the number of beans they have and compare this number to their estimations!

How does this simulate what scientists do?

Those that study population densities of different organisms will often use this method of capture-count-and-release. A group of organisms is captured and marked with a device or tag. Later in the year, or the following season, scientists will capture another group of that organism and see how many have been previously tagged. If there are only a small number of tagged organisms, scientists assume there is a larger population. If many of the organisms already contain tags, then the total population may be quite small. By using the bean simulation, students can begin to understand this process!

Questions to discuss:

  1. Compare the bean simulation to real life. What is alike and what is different? You might bring up that beans do not die or give birth, so the population will remain static (as long as no beans get lost under the table!). Live organisms always have changing populations, so this would affect the number of organisms in an ecosystem.
  2. How precise is this method? When students compared their estimations to the actual number of beans, they found that some groups were pretty close in their estimation, while others were not. We noticed a pattern of groups that had marked a higher sample initially also had more accurate estimations!
  3. Can this be used for all organisms? When I asked this question, students in my class determined that this would be very difficult to use for types of insects or other very small creatures. Larger animals would work better!