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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Hypothetical Water Issues

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There’s a issue of making curriculum, especially in science and math classes, relevant to students. There’s also the cross-discipline thing that’s so popular right now (which shouldn’t have to be a thing, but it is). But how to include, say, algebra problems in history class or history problems in algebra class, without being too token-ish about it?

Maybe you don’t.

Make it up instead. This is the whole premise behind a lot of Dan Meyer‘s math and teaching blog, especially his “What Can You Do With This?” series. How do you get students to “buy into” the lesson, rather than just complete the problems? Vi Hart is kind of this idea in practice, noticing patterns and expounding on them.

What can I do with something ubiquitous, like water?

Dr. Tyson says that there are more molecules in a cup of water than cups of water in the Earth’s oceans. Oh yes, the calculations work out (and are a good conversion problem for chemistry students). But that lasts about… 15-20 minutes at most. And while an amazingly cool factoid, isn’t very tangible (and therefore, not very memorable) to most people.

NBC’s coverage of the summer Olympics has a piece on how competitive swimming pools are engineered. Also cool. Not super science-heavy, but things I hadn’t thought about before, especially in silencing waves to promote speed. What other sports need information on waves? How do noise-canceling headphones work? Could you put wave-canceling things on boats to make for faster sailing? (P.S., the segment on para-Olympic engineering is fascinating!)

Maybe it doesn’t have to be entirely realistic. Bring out the curiosity. xkcd‘s what-if on making a rainstorm into a single drop of water.

Hurricanes are gigantic forces of nature, but much of how they move depends on physics of large objects, especially momentum and inertia. So, mass is a big question. Just how much does a hurricane weigh?, via Robert Krulwich on NPR.