Pi Day

As if you needed a reason to celebrate a mathematical concept, today is Pi Day (3/14 – get it?).  So why is this important?  (I have to use the Greek Pi, as opposed to the symbol in the blog).  There aren’t many activities here, but mostly a shout out to Pi (and those who shout out for it).

  • Pi shows the relationship between diameter and circumference of a circle.
  • Pi is a constant – no matter what size the circle, as a ratio, its value remains the same.
  • Pi is known mostly as 3.14, but it has been calculated out to over a trillion digits.
  • Pi has a long history: it comes from the Greek letters and the Egyptians used the equivalent of Pi/2 for their proportions of the pyramids – this seems to have been a good choice, if longevity plays into architecture….
  • It is central in equations for area of a circle and volume of a cylinder (central to those of us who like curling and cans of soup).
  • Is Pi a normal number?
  • Are people who wear a Pi t-shirt normal?  Lots to think about.
  • Are there any other constants that have (or should have) a day?

Resources:

  1. Pi Day Website – Learn about Pi
  2. Wikipedia explanation with cool animation that actually makes the concept understandable! (This would be a great experiment to recreate.  Give students four or five circles (lids, etc) of different diameters.  Measure the diameter of each, mark a spot on the circle and roll it out, then measure the circumference (or use measuring tape).  Is the circumference 3.14 x the diameter?  Have them record their findings on a chart.

Enciendalo!

Graph It

There is something clean and simple and wonderful about a graph.  Add humor, and you’ve got a great advisory activity.

Activity:

  1. Have students work together in pairs to choose one of the graphs above and discuss what does this graph say and how it says it. You might encourage students to look at the title, the x and y axis or the segments from the bar graph or the categories on a pie graph.  What is being compared?  Is the picture a story over time? What do the amounts on the charts represent? Does it show amounts in relation to one another?
  2. As  a whole group, brainstorm some topics for a graph of your own. What experiences have you seen that would be fun to show in a graph.  How would you represent it – a pie chart? A line graph?  A Bar graph?  Why?  Choose one of these, brainstorm numbers and percentages and draw the graph.
  3. Allow students to think about a graph they might create. (Their top 5 procrastination techniques, Ways their parents respond to a request for money, snack foods in a week…etc). and have them each do one that represents what is important/funny to them.  Use good graphing techniques.

Resources:

Enciendalo!

Thanks Kari for the idea!

Take Cover, its “My Way”

It is hard to see ourselves the way we are, often times.  Its a blind spot of the human experience.  We can, however, easily judge things outside our cultural comfort zone.  Last week, the NYTimes ran a story that will challenge us to remain objective and reason like a social scientist.  In the Phillipines, where karaoke is a favorite past time, men have been killing each other over different songs, but singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” is a ticket to gun play.

Activity:

  • Ask students an introductory question to focus the students and connect to prior experience.  You might have them think about what are the most important past times in the United States and what does this say about us?  What do people take pride in – in the various countries or cultures you’ve visited?
  • Read the article with students.
  • Review the basics of the story:  Who is the article about? Where does it take place? Why is it important?
    • What questions do you have about this? (What would you ask to understand it more deeply?)
    • What do you think contributes to these actions?
  • What happens in your community or our country that might be seen by others, outside our culture, as strange or unthinkable?

Resources:

Enciendalo! (Your Way)

Energizer, Part 3

Two Truths and a Lie:

Step 1: The facilitator writes three statements on the board. Two statements are true, and one is a lie. Example:

I have been running 5 days a week for 7 years.
I have a pet fish called, “Abe Vagoda.”
I lived in Italy for a year.

Step 2: Encourage students to ask “lie detector” questions to get further information, in order to determine which statement is false.

  • Training – Where have you run? What is the most important advice for a new runner?  How do you prepare?  What races have you run? How long do you go each day? What year did you start?
  • Pet – How old is Abe Vagoda? What does it eat? How long have you had it?  Is it male?
  • Italy – Where did you live in Italy? What dialect of Italian is spoken there?  What is the local delicacy?

Step 3: Advisory votes on which statement is a lie. The facilitator reveals which are truths and which are lies.

Place participants in small groups (3 or 4 works well). Small groups repeat steps 1 – 3. Have participants introduce each other to the large group.  Remember, as a leader, don’t be afraid to be goofy (if you won’t,  no one else will).

Resources:

Extensions:

  • Variation: Two Truths and a Dream Wish. As an interesting variation to the classic Two Truths and a Lie icebreaker, people may also play a version called Two Truths and a Dream Wish. Instead of stating a lie, a person says something that is not true — yet something that they wish to be true. For example, someone that has never been to Hawaii might say: “I have visited Hawaii when I was young.” This interesting spin often leads to unexpected, fascinating results, as people often share touching wishes about their lives.
  • Politifact – Go to this site to check the Truth-o-meter on current political discourse.

Enciendalo!

What is Looting?

“Burnin’ and a Lootin’ tonight…” Bob Marley.

Some of the most powerful images from the  Rodney King Riots in LA in 1992 were of the rampant looting of stores as the area burned.  The boundaries of civic responsibility were smashed and broadcast on tv for days.  This behavior startled the country, it tips an inherent  fear of chaos and disorder.  In the last week, new outlets in the US and England began reporting that there was looting in Haiti.  There were reports of mobs attacking suspected looters and other reports countering that these were highly exaggerated.  Regardless of the degree, it raises the question, what is looting?  How is it different than stealing? or Finding? How does the context of the situation help to define this?

Activity:

  • This activity surrounds reading and responding to a text – a portion of an editorial by Rebecca Solnit.  I would recommend running a text-based activity on this short reading (consider Text Based Seminar Protocol or the NSRF Text Rendering Protocol.)
  • According to the protocols, give students time to review the short text and review with each other the basic facts related in the piece.
  • Run the protocol so that students get an opportunity to probe the meaning of this editorial. Allow people to explore the ideas related in the piece.
  • Keep a chart on the board to write out characteristics and build a definition of looting.’
  • Finally, consider running a Barometer at the end of the class with reference to one framing question (such as In this case, did the media misrepresent the actions in Haiti as looting?)

In “The Nation“, Rebecca Solnit wrote this week:

“There’s something grotesque about using the word “looting” to describe what’s happening in Haiti. Following that island nation’s devastating earthquake, dozens of survivors have been filmed or photographed digging through the rubble for food, water, medicine, and other necessities. In virtually every case, the media has identified these people as “looters.’’

But are they, really? To loot is to pillage and plunder for selfish gain. That’s not what wretched Haitians are doing when they grab a box of powdered milk from a collapsed store. They’re merely trying to “salvage the means of sustaining life from the ruins of their world.”

Imagine, for a moment, that your city or town was destroyed by some natural disaster, and you and your family hadn’t eaten in days. You’d be justifiably irate at the notion that “grabbing a box of PowerBars and a few gallons of water” from a shattered storefront made you a criminal. Yet we have no trouble smugly applying that description to those in similar circumstances if they are poor and foreign—and, yes, black.”

Resources:

Extensions:

  • Have students research historical examples of looting, based on the definition created in class today.  When did they happen?  Who was involved? What triggered the action? What effect did this this have on the nation or the community after the event?
  • Write a journal entry about how stealing is different from looting.  In what ways are these things the same? How are they different?  Under what situations could they see themselves stealing?

Enciendalo!

The Milgram Experiment

What does it mean when we say something is “human nature”?  I love these broad questions – are we basically good (thanks Locke) or evil (shout out Hobbes)?  Do we have the capacity for altruism?  Who are we at our worst moments?  Stanley Milgram, a social scientist in the 60’s, pushed the limits of experimentation about one area of human nature – our obedient responses to authority.  Milgram was filled with questions that sprouted initially from Nazis in WWII.  How could a baker or college professor become a guard at a Nazi death camp? Didn’t they feel a sense of responsibility?  Why didn’t they stand up?  His research came up with one answer, an answer that also comments about our nature.

Activities:

  1. Prior knowledge – ask students to write or talk in pairs about the response to the following, “Think about a time that you did something you that you were uncomfortable about because a person you perceived as an authority told you to. Describe the situation, the people involved, and the outcome. What happened? Who was the authority? Why? Why were you uncomfortable?”  Help students share responses and tell them they will learn about an experiment that probes how humans react to the authority.
  2. Depending on your access – either read the NYTimes article or watch one of the video’s below (each is about 8 minutes) that reviews the Milgram experiment. (Ideally – watch the video in advisory and discuss and use the short article for homework).
  3. Encourage students to take notes on the basics:
    1. Who are the participants?
    2. Which of these people are actors?
    3. What is the machine that the “teacher” is using?
    4. What is the experiment testing?
    5. What “Pressures” were put on the teacher when they began to feel uncomfortable? (list quotes if you can).
    6. What are the results of the experiment?
    7. What do you think from these events?
  4. Discuss the Milgram Experiment and the dark side of authority and obedience (and shedding responsibility).
  5. Why do you think they use roles like “teacher”, “experimenter”, and “student” instead of names?  What do you think this means?
  6. Does authority have to be a “guy in a white coat”.  What are other ways we might think about authority? How have you seen people respond to this?

Resources:

  1. The original 1960’s experiment (10 Min Video) (You can fast forward to get the basics).
  2. The a recreation of the experiment
  3. NY Times Article “Decades Later I would Pull the Switch”
    1. Related Discussion Questions
  4. Wikipedia Overview of the Experiment

Update: (3.28): Well you might have heard the ruckus all the way from France, but a live French TV show (“The Game of Death”) just used the basis of the Milgram experiment for a reality show.  They asked members of the audience to flip switches to pulse electricity through a man who needed to be “punished” until the actor (though no one knew this) appeared dead.  This has started a hot debate – are humans programed to listen to “experts” and act out on others or do they understand the artifice of the tv context and they are playing out fantasies because they must know it can’t be real?

Extensions:

  • This experiment has obvious relations to the behavior of Nazis in World War II.  Many asked, how could a whole country, usually common working people become part of a discriminatory murder machine?  Consider reviewing Facing History and Ourselves materials on Obedience and Conformity specifically in the context of the Holocaust.
  • As a reflection from this experiment – assuming this is true, what safeguards do we need to put in place to make sure that people don’t shed their responsibility and act (in some cases) barbarically?

Enciendalo!

Function Machine

Give me some of that input/output! – Give me some of that Math! Introducing your advisory to the concept of variables early helps them see algebra in their LTI projects.  Also, the concept of a variable will make discussing budget equations, compound interest, credit card debt, and car loans much easier in future advisory activities.
Advisory Activity:
Start by putting the following charts on the board:
You Say… The Machine Says…
0                     6
1                     7
3                     9
4                     10
7                     13
Explain the chart.  Ask your students to call out a number. “The machine” responds with a number. The machine is, well, a machine—it has some sort of rule it uses to figure out its response.  What’s the rule in this case?  (Answer: Add six to the number you say.)Here are a few other examples:
x    y
2    5
3    7
5    11
8    17
The machine doubles the number, then adds one.You could write that as y = 2x + 1.  The 2x means two times x.
x     y
2    0.5
5    0.2
10    0.1
12    .083
The machine divides one by the number you give.You could write that as y = 1/x.Ask your students to write the rule as a function (a formula). “The number that you say” we call x.  “The number the machine responses with” we call y.  So we add six to x to get y. You can write this using algebraic notation as y = x+6.  It is standard to use x for the input and y as the output. Now, turn the machine idea into a game.  Have someone come up with a rule and stand at the board, acting like the machine.  (Ask a student to come up with a function, or use one you suggest)Have other people give “the machine” a number.  “The machine” then responds using the rule.  The group then has to figure out the rule and devise a formula that represents the rule.Students can take turns trying to stump each other.  Make sure everyone gets a chance to be the function machine (this can be a fun game to play for a few minutes a week – your students will be pros!)
Reflection:
The more times you can come back to this activity, especially during those five or ten minutes in advisory when you don’t have anything else planned, the better.  Some students will find this activity easy, and some will find it very hard.  How can you make it challenging for all students?  Should you have certain students challenge other students?  Should you make teams?  Help students to introduce harder formulas into the game, like x2 or 3x?  Make sure you help students learn more about equations as you go.
Resources:

Enciendalo!