At the Cathy Battles "Great Tasks" mathematics workshop that was presented at ESHS on July 29, 2015, the ESHS and ESMS math department members were provided with a wide variety of mathematical tasks that are free and available to all students. Cathy did a phenomenal job of showing us a variety of techniques for allowing the students to take control of their learning as well as provide tasks that require students to go through the problem solving process. One of the topics that intrigued me was using a story to spark students wanting to finish the story by solving the math behind the story.
I did an example in class to introduce exponential growth by reading “The King’s Chessboard” by David Birch. The basics of the story is that the King agreed to pay a grain of rice on day one, and double the grains of rice of the previous day, and continue each day for 64 days (a day for each square on the chess board) to a wise man. The students became intrigued by the story and were curious how bad the situation presented to the king would get. Something as simply putting grains of rice on a chess board really got the students engaged in the math and curious. Students then were asked to fill in the situation and quickly they realized how much rice was building up even before getting to the halfway mark. Students asked questions along the way and this drove the direction that the class would continue. Questions that were created and then researched and answered were: How much does a grain of rice weigh? How heavy would the rice be each day? Is there enough rice on earth to even fulfill the King’s promise? How big would the container need to be to hold the rice?
The students were begging for me to read the rest of the book by the end of class. They were curious if the wise man would hold the King to his promise and ultimately bankrupt the king. The best part of the activity is that they left class with a hands-on concept of exponential growth and the equation y=2^x.
Here is a video of another reading the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_gNvM-WLF8
Post by | Jonah Albertson | High School Mathematics
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