Sunday, December 2, 2012

Making real-world problems "real" with video modeling

While at the AMATYC conference a few weeks ago, I saw a nice talk on teaching a linked chemistry and algebra course.  It got me thinking more about an idea I've had for a while, to bring physical experiments into my math classroom.  I used to do this for linear regression in precalculus, and have been inspired a lot by Frank Noschese and other physics "180" blogs.  One of my concerns was the difficulty and time involved with setting up an experiment in class.

Then it occurred to me - what a great use for video!  In many ways, it's really similar to Dan Meyer's "three-acts" - using a video for motivating a question, then using the same video to provide the Act 2 data.  So, I shot a few of these and made a document suggesting a line of questioning that could go along with each. 

But I also figured this was a great way to test out the video-cued assessment feature I recently added to MyOpenMath, so I created a series of assessments that pop up questions during the video.  One uses Tracker to track a dropped ball and form a model, and eventually use that to predict how high a balcony is by dropping a ball off it.  If you want to try some out, visit MyOpenMath, login with username: guest, and open any of the items in the Video-based modeling folder.

I also create a series of single questions that use videos to provide visual real-world context to some basic questions.  It's amazing how much it changes the feel of the question.  It's one thing to say that a chain has a volume of 5 cm^3 and a mass of 38 grams, and ask the student to calculate the density, but it's quite different to show the volume measurement then ask the question.

Next goal:  figure out a way to adapt the "give an estimate then look at the class's estimates" approach that Dan Meyer, Dave Majors, and Riley Lark are exploring to work in MyOpenMath.  My initial concern is how to address the first few students, before much data has been collected.  Perhaps seeding the pool with a handful of responses would be enough to make it work.

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