Friday, October 28, 2011

Class 17: 10/25/11-UTeach Institute Visitors & Back of the Envelope Problems

Today there were visitors in our class from St. Petersburg College, Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and New Mexico State University whose schools are interested in replicating the UTeach program.

We spent the first part of class going through introductions. Students talked about the UTeach program and our recent field experience at Manor New Tech. High School. Some of the positive things said about the UTeach program were that in this program, we are thrown into the classrooms our first semester so that we immediately get teaching experience. Also, many students noted the sense of community in the program and that many of us have the same classes together. Students were able give suggestions on how to improve the UTeach program. Some of the things mentioned were classroom management classes, teaching classes more specific to our content areas, changing the Research Methods course to make it more applicable to our fields, and having more chances to teach individually throughout the program.

Today’s agenda included doing “Back of the envelope problems.” As Dr. Petrosino explained, these problems are a little untraditional and don’t lend themselves to easy answers, but they get you thinking about the process. They deal with estimation and coming close, keeping us thinking on our feet. We split up into 5 groups, and each group was given a different question to explore.

1) How man kilograms of leaves fall in New England in the autumn?

2) What is the number of heartbeats in a lifetime (human, mouse, elephant)?

3) Since 1492, how many people have crossed the Atlantic?

4) How many piano tuners are there in New York City?

5) How many hairs are on your head?

My group was assigned problem number 1. We first thought about ways we could approach this problem. Some suggestions included thinking about how many trees there are in New England and how much the leaves of one tree weigh. We realized that we didn’t know the specific numbers that we needed. For example, we wanted to use the square mileage of New England, the number of trees per square mile, and the number of trash bags used to collect the leaves of one tree. After many assumptions, we came up with our answer of 1,250,000,000 pounds.

We began group presentations on how we approached our problem. Each group had to make predictions and use previous knowledge to come up with their solutions. We had to think of creative ways to go about each problem (for example, one group used a silver necklace to determine the circumference of their group member’s head). We all had to make a lot of assumptions to go about our problems which led to more assumptions.

We ended the class thinking about how we might justify using these kinds of activities in our future classrooms given the push in Texas to stick to state standards. Our discussion of this topic will continue next class.

Each day in PBI a different student takes responsibility for blogging about what goes on in class. Today’s blog is brought to you by ­­­Vanessa.

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