Time Distance Graphs

Algebra 1A is reviewing parts of a graph, writing stories from graphs, and graphing based on situations. I ran across a really fun idea from Mr. Orr where he had students create motion videos, create an answer key (i.e. a nice graph of the scenario) and then gallery walk and try to create graphs based on each pairs video. I knew I wanted to do it with my class. I am not one to one, or even close to that, though, so I adjusted the activity to fit. Instead, we all had to share the one iPad I did have.

Each student got a set of steps and a place to sketch what they thought the steps would look like on a graph. I didn’t give them much direction here. As they finished, I pulled students out into the hall to film there series of steps. I asked them to think about the distance they traveled over the course of doing the activity and re-sketch the graph if doing it changed their minds. (So in the worksheet below, most students had two sketches for #1).

Time Distancedirections

After the videos and sketches, we talked about what a time distance graph shows. I projected a completed graph and students try to come up with a story. Each student then graphed there own graph on a full sheet of graph paper. I checked over them for accuracy, asking students to explain areas I wasn’t sure about and re-draw until we both agreed. They stapled a blank piece of paper on top and wrote the letter of their story on the outside.

Overnight, I collected all the different clips and arranged them by letter. I also taped up the graphs around the room, with only the letter showing. We opened the next day by watching all the clips as a class. Each student sketched what they thought each graph would look like and labeled it with the correct letter. After the clips, students walked around the room to check their answers. I also asked them to write down any “Notices or Wonders,” especially if the graphs didn’t match they had drawn.

Here is a sample video and solution:

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We got back together as a class and took a poll on which graphs had matched or not. We re-watched the most troubling clips and discussed what made them harder to draw. We also talked about how the graphs might not mach exactly, but still be considered correct. Without having actual measurements on the ground, “fast walking” might always be steeper than “slow walking,” but by how much would vary.

Then, students were given a reflection/exit ticket. Instead of creating graphs, they were given a graph and had to create the story.


The whole thing took about 1 class period, but split into two days. (The end of one class and the first half of another. I have 50 minute classes, but they are small. With a larger class it might have taken longer, or with more iPads it could have been shorter as we wouldn’t have had to watch all the videos together before the walk. Mr. Orr had the iPad videos sitting around the room, one video at each poster.)

It was a fun and active way to introduce motion graphs. I will definitely be using it again. Hopefully next time with more video devices.

Day 3: Woo Hoo

We made it to Day 3. That might not seem too exciting to anyone else, but it is September 21st and only the 3rd day of school due to a contract issue and teacher strike. As of 7 pm last night, I didn’t know whether or not we’d be having Day 3 today or weeks from now.  Now, I feel more grounded. School is off and running.

Monday started off and running too. We drove right into challenging material and students doing the hard work. I love walking around the room taking notes, peering in to conversations, and not talking back. For most of the students, this was a shock to them. They seem on board, but I’m hoping soon that they, too, prefer working this way.  Attendance was better than I was expecting which was exciting as well.

The Bridge to College class did Dan Meyer’s Bucky the Badger and followed up with  a quick reasoning with numbers activity to close out. They had to take a multiplication fact and justify other multiplication and division problems without using a calculator or an algorithm. (Example: If 17 x 22 = 374, what is: 17 x 2.2;   2200 x 170;   374/0.17  ?)

Geometry is working on creating and using definitions. I provided each group with cards that had vocabulary terms and pictures that were example and other non-examples of said term. They had to create definitions and then switch with another team to try draw examples from the definitions only (no term). Tomorrow we’ll revisit the definitions with feedback included and they’ll be tasked with rewriting them.


Algebra is working on inequalities, using some guided exploration to review/discover the effect of operations on inequalities. My other 3rd year class was picking out linear, quadratic, and exponential patterns from tables and creating equations. Lots of good energy today!

Spaghetti Challenge

I wanted to start the year with a project. I value discussion, team work, and creating and I wanted students to know this from day one. I threw around some grand ambitions, but settled on the spaghetti/marshmallow challenge mostly because the supplies were cheap and easy to jump right into. I was worried that students would have done it already or be bored, but I was definitely wrong. Students were thrilled. My favorite comment of the day “You aren’t tricking us right? I hope math class will be good all year and not just today.”

I had students fill out reflection forms and I got all fives, with the exception was of two fours. (1-5 scale). All groups begged to stay longer after class. Two groups worked through lunch hour, and one group tried to stay into their next class.  I’d call that a good opening. I also got pages of notes of individual students learning styles, ability to work together, communication skills, etc.

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One interesting note was the responses to the question: What worked well? Students  tended to choose their own contribution to the tower. For example for one group, one said “adding something to pull back the wobbly parts” (her idea) and the other: “making a triangle at the bottom to make sure its even/balanced.” (again, said students idea). Their tower was successful at 26.5″ and there was no way to tell tell which one made the difference, if both were needed, or something else entirely. On the flip side, the “What would you change” was usually more supply or group oriented. “Be neater” “Use material smarter” “Be less wobbly”. This may be normal, but we started doing community circles this year and the students had been really critical about themselves earlier in the day, so I was excited to see them proud of their contributions.

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In most of the groups they started out two people working on totally different ideas for same tower and it slowly turned into better team dynamics. A few groups hit it off right from the start and only would do work if both agreed. A few assigned tasks and then came together at the end.

We had some good discussions. What assumptions can we make? How long does it have to stand to count? (The absolute highest was 30 inches. it stood alone for about 1 or 2 seconds and fell. Another at 26.5 inches stood until the group karate chopped it down at the end of class). Is height really the most important part? What are we learning?  “We can go higher!”

Also, I forgot string was a material, so they only got tape, spaghetti and a marshmallow. Three separate groups came back later to tell me a brilliant new idea that “Would for sure be the highest.”  One of the the more inventive ideas was to make a long thin strand and tape the marshmallow to the top of the spaghetti and the ceiling so the long, thin strand didn’t have to actually hold weight.

We Are Finally Back

After a crazy non-start to the school year, we are finally officially have students in school. It has been a slow day, but I’m hoping it will pick up quickly as I am ready to start this year.

A few changes. I’m at a new site. Same school, but totally different part of the city, all new work colleges and students. As a wanderer, its been fun to start anew without actually having to totally start over. I’m also teaching a brand new class called Bridge to College Math which seems like a great opportunity for the students. What’s one more prep to add to the other 6? 😀 I truly appreciate I will never be bored at work.

I have nothing too exciting to report yet, but I am going to strive to post more regularly this school year so I had to start with the right foot forward. I did, however, find a scary bat when cleaning out the classroom so she is now hanging from my wall.