Middle Grades TI-Nspire – Day One

Tuesday, July 19, was the first day of the TI-Nspire summer learning experience in Atlanta.  I am the lead-organizer and the instructor for the section with middle school teachers.

The brief outline of our activities, work, and learning:

  • Age Estimation
  • Phases of the Moon
  • Fractions, Percents, and Decimals
  • Basic calculator functionality
  • Exploring the options for a page when creating a TI-Nspire document.
  • A discussion of CAS.
This is actually backwards from the stated agenda…I wanted to try teaching the context first and then going back to the skill to see how the participants would react.  Do I have to teach the “basics” first or will we learn the “basics” while in the middle of a problem?  It was an experiment in learning by doing.
We started with Age Estimation which has learners estimate the age of people they may or may not know.  The math of the lesson lays the foundation for vectors.  We talk about magnitude and direction without directly using those terms.  The point is to make meaning of the sign of a number.
Then Phases of the Moon was our next investigation.  Can we make connections between math and science?  Can we interpret graphs while learning the vocabulary and other facts about the moon?  Can we right mathematical statements describing the time the moon was waxing?  The point was to learn to plot points AND interpret the graph in the context of something real.

Now, how to visualize the connections between fractions, decimals and percents?  The fractions, decimals, and percents document is dynamic.  Learns can explore and geometrically express percents, fractions, and decimals by interacting with the document.  The screen shots below do not do the document justice, but each learner can drag the rectangles and squares into the 10×10 grid to illustrate 45%.
 Here are 4 examples from class:  
Isn’t it interesting how different learners will visualize the same concepts?  As their teacher, don’t I have new information about these learners?  I can now regroup learner who think differently than the rest of their group.  I can regroup them into groups that think alike and challenge them to represent what they know in at least 3 different ways.  
While the content may look sparse, the discussion was rich and filled with student inquiry from a learner point of view as well as a teacher point of view.  
Would I do it this way again? Turn the agenda upside down? Yep!  We learned lots of basics while investigating higher level topics.  It was an experiment worth repeating.  

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