Monday, May 21, 2012

Visit from a future pilot

Kim Kast, amazing afterschool math teacher at John J. Flynn Elementary, contributed this piece. Thank you, Kim!
Last week, third grade math mania students enjoyed a visit from a special guest, University of Vermont student Sylvia Stevens-Goodnight. Sylvia just completed her sophomore year of study in the UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. Her concentration is mechanical engineering, and she told the students she is one of only seven women in her program; she encouraged the students in their studies of math, and wanted to especially encourage girls to consider pursuing a career involving the study of math and science. Sylvia described some career-related experiences, such as trying on a pilot's suit, sitting at the controls of a jet plane, and even being ejected from the seat of the plane. Sylvia explained to the students that engineers sometimes design new products, invent new machines, and innovate new ideas. The students were surprised to learn that engineers could even design video games.

All of the students had many questions about engineering, and of course, about college life in general. The third graders couldn't believe that a student could have seconds, or even thirds, on ice cream for dessert... every night! Sylvia assured them (speaking from experience) that after a few days of all-you-can-eat ice cream, they would know why their mothers wisely told them, "Eat your vegetables!"

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Music for the Eyes

Joe Garofalo, C.P. Smith music teacher and captain in the Lyric Theater’s recent production of Titanic, kindly shares his room with me. Often, before the students arrive in the morning, we find ourselves discussing the math-music connection and how we might help bring this to life for students. Last week, Joe showed me some animated music he’d discovered. I had a hard time tearing myself away. See for yourself. Here is Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor  by a company called Musanim. Musanim says it will send a free DVD of these videos to public libraries and schools. We’ve got ours on order.

Scale of the Universe

What do Gomez’s Hamburger, Palm Jebel Ali and Mimivirus have in common? They are all found in Scale of the Universe 2 at 2.5 x 1015 meters, 8 x 103 meters, and 4 x 10-7meters, respectively. Scale of the Universe 2 is a cool, interactive website which goes nicely with my earlier blog post about the Powers of Ten lesson and video. Visitors can zoom all the way down to teeny Quantum Foam and then all the way out to the observable universe and the Hubble Deep Field.

Each object has a brief description, so you will not be left wondering what Palm Jebel Ali is (the largest human-made island) and you’ll know Gomez’s Hamburger is a heavenly body, not a menu item. There are commonplace entries like a Boeing 747 and a sunflower, too.

Students can use this site to explore relative magnitude even if they are not yet ready to learn about exponents in math. Author Istvan Banyai has written a wonderful book called Zoom, which does something similar in low-tech. Students might try to create their own book in this format.

John J. Flynn library super-star Corey Wallace brought Scale of the Universe to my attention. This is just another example of how my own universe is constantly expanding with the help of my talented and enthusiastic colleagues.