I have one high school class this year. It is an Informal Geometry class. I am very proud of all that my students have accomplished this year. They generally work hard to understand the concepts I require them to master.
But, one issue I continually face is their vocabulary. They just don’t want to describe what they see using the vocabulary we study.
So, when I stumbled upon http://www.mathplayground.com/Spiromath.html, I decided it was time to ask them to step up.
This little web app allows students to change the parameters of the drawings. Each change creates a beautiful image. They were give one goal. Describe what each parameter does to the overall picture you create.
They were given a page to record their findings. You can see a copy of it in the photo above. I started them with basic parameters. What happened if the pen were the only change? Now what if the inner circle’s radius was the only change? Finally what if the outer circle’s radius was the only change? After that they were given room to record their own set of parameters. Did you find the pattern? Did the pen draw what you predicted? How would you describe the image you drew?
In the beginning, I heard a lot of “that’s pretty” and “how did you do that?” Then they started really digging into the task. Lots of “come look at this” began to spread across the computer lab. Then the bell rang. Day one of the project was over. “Man, class went really fast today.” “I’m glad we get to do this again tomorrow.” “That was cool.”
On day two, I didn’t even have to tell them to get started. Students were already working by the time I could get to the lab. They had been given two days to complete their investigations, to find their words. The second day was the “get down to business” day. They all knew it.
I can’t say that every student found their vocabulary. What I can say is that every one of them felt successful in creating something beautiful. I even heard a couple say they never thought they were artistic before this project. I call that a success.