Last week the 9th grade students at City Arts and Technology (fondly known as CAT), which is one of the two Envision Schools in San Francisco, were able to use ipads in their last math classes of the year. Due to the tireless work of our Senior Director of Technology we were able to benefit from a loan program that Apple has. Their rep just dropped them off and our math teacher was able to start right away (well it was almost that simple). Luckily the math teacher at CAT has been working hard all year to incorporate technology in his teaching practice and was ready to take full advantage of the loan.
When I went to visit the students were working on graphing and exploring how all of the elements of the equation impact the end result. Their first task was to create graphs that looked the same as the samples provided. Once they had visually matched the graphs they then noted the different values for x, y, and a. For this they were using an online graphing calculator called Desmos.
After this they were asked to use at least three different equations at once. This prompted many of the students creativity and ingenuity. A couple of students used simple line and circle equations to create a picture. ” its a plate, some chopsticks and a…meatball” she exclaimed. I think this got other students thinking outside of the box, I saw kites, flowers, and a baseball. Some students went to the samples to see how other shapes are made, and even copied or changed these equations to better understand how they changed the image. One pair of students wanted to have a filled shape and did so by making multiple lines that seemed to blend together.
This website offered students a more hands on opportunity to engage with the graph, by allowing them to adjust all aspects, by making it possible for them to play and move and experiment. One student called me over because he, and I will use his words ” am lost in my graph”. He had gotten so deep into the manipulation and moving that he could not locate where x and y intersect. Luckily there is a button to bring you home. I asked him what he was working on and he said that he was following the two lines he had created, “they just kept going”. I flippantly said they would keep going forever and never touch, and he looked at me in a way that I am having a hard time describing. I realized that even though he knew this (someone told him, his teacher taught him, he memorized it) he had not experienced it until now. It was made real for him in that moment.
So, apart from testing the ipads in algebra I, we are going to be using them for the next two weeks in what we refer to as “workshops.” This is a time when each teacher creates a larger project that the students can engage with, and students select which project they want to work on. So stay tuned for more exciting stories and more learning.