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Tag Archives: hypothetically

The Emotion of Science Class?

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The past week, I’ve overheard my students reciting passages from various Shakespeare plays, which they have to recite during their English classes next week. And I’ve also heard them grumbling about how easy it is to memorize something, so why bother learning a particular passage.

Although the English class poems are long-gone from my memory, I can still recite a Goethe poem from my high school German class (“Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind? / Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind….”). I also remember that although every person in class memorized the whole eight verses, part of our grades was on how the person emoted through the passages. It’s a depth-of-meaning kind of thing, which some people are good at expressing and some are not. And there’s a whole other depth when it comes to poetry contests and spoken word presentations (like this breathtaking example from Harvard’s School of Ed 2016 graduation by Donovan Livingston). Recitations are, for some, a whole art and passion.

So, in science classes, what is worthy of this kind of passage-memorization? And what would be the equivalent of emotion? Mere application of equations seems to be less significant than emotional response, and more of a logic puzzle than art. Application of concepts, however, somehow seems closer. To see something more like Beautiful Reactions or categorization of birds or even videos of marbles and magnets takes the rote skills and makes it into something more sublime.

So what is the emotion of science class?

The Unexpected: Vaccines

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Last week, a friend pointed me to a link. The Gates Foundation is having a social media summit with Bill Nye about their work with vaccines. So I filled out the application.

They accepted me!

What would you want to ask of Bill (Gates or Nye… or Melinda, for that matter) if you could go??

Modular Problem, Part II

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It works!

yes, it looks the same as the previous pictures, but trust me, the pesky doubled-up pieces are gone.

I started with assembling ten equal, symmetric pieces:

Now I want to play Space Invaders…

I figured if I could keep the pieces sorta “facing” the same way, it would work itself out. And then:


Right. Duh. Five-sided holes are hard to construct from pre-assembled three-pieced things.

So, I took a few of my pre-constructs apart, but only as many as I had to. And it worked!

In other words, I had a semi-correct sorta kinda plan than didn’t really work as I thought, but did get the results I wanted.

So, I’ve answered half of my question (although I don’t know of a way to sorta “calculate” it beforehand, I’m inclined to think it’s something along the lines of the four-color problem), and it is possible to construct the model so that you only use three colors without similar-colored neighbors. But the other question still remains: is there a way to guarantee that this works? How about for other models?

Having What It Takes

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Do you have what it takes, or do you just think that you do? This article on incompetence kinda made me a little paranoid about whether I’m as good as I think I am. I mean, here I am, blogging and spouting off about things, and does that really make me a better teacher? On the other hand, it seems like a lack of self-reflection seems to be the downfall of the people termed “incompetent,” so maybe I’m okay.

Apparently, this isn’t a new idea.

So, what do you do for self-reflection / evaluation? And, probably more importantly, how do you use that information to improve?

Math Break: Legos and Trains

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Here’s a Duplo train set:

Its brightly-colored (and rainbow-ordered!) numbered blocks 1-9 fit exactly onto three train cars, with the 10 sitting by itself. Once the adult gets bored assembling the train in the “correct” way for the millionth time just so their toddler can quickly disassemble it and scatter the pieces about, the adult probably wants to have a new system.

What are other ways that the numbered blocks can fit on the trains, with one left over, that makes some sort of ordered sense?

For example,

  • 1,9,10; 2,6,8; 3,4,7 (addition; 5 is left over)
  • 9,6,3; 10,8,2; 5,4,1 (subtraction; 7 left over)
  • 2,4,8; 3,6,9; 1,5,7; (multiples and primes, 10 left over)

I recognize that addition and subtraction are basically the same thing in this case, as would be multiplication/division (although I don’t think it’s possible to do through these blocks).

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.

Hypothetical Fractions

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Minutia are fascinating. People are enthralled with tiny things. Small dogs are somehow cuter, babies are more appealing than teenagers, dolls and statuettes are highly valued, model cars prized for their construction (or lack thereof).

But that’s all material stuff. What happens in tiny bits of minutes? Slow motion is way more fun to watch than fast-forward.

But all of that is actually possible to watch and determine.

What exactly, really, exactly, would happen if…

…you fall into a black hole?

…you throw a baseball at 0.9c?