Awesome xkcd Exploratory Activity

So I read this post about teaching Calculus students using a date-able range xkcd comic, and I thought “awesome, this has functions, inverses, several domains and ranges (several functions), slapped together with some good old internet research and important technology skills (Excel, Google docs’ spreadsheets), all rolled nicely in a topic that captures HS’s attention.”

So I did this in Precalculus today, during our block (1 and a half hour) period.  One class started awesome and tanked, the other class started even better and soared.

Class 1 are the seniors, so no super-special math ability, but they’re not “bumps on a log”–they’re bright when they are motivated, and I think they were motivated by the questions that arose.  Unlike Mr. Cornally’s class, I had to prompt them with questions like “what do you think, is this reasonable?”, otherwise they would have just stared at me.  However, I was proud how they went in the right direction and some even realized it was an inverse!  Awesome.  When we finally got around to using a Google docs’ spreadsheet, I knew they’d goof off at first.  “Hehe, I just typed so-and-so stinks, hehe.”  They’re seniors; what can you expect?  So I decided beforehand I’d give them 5 minutes to get it out of their system.  However, that wasn’t enough time and they kept going with the dumb comments, so I was very disappointed in their lack of maturity and interest in the problem.

However, my second class, who are juniors, and therefore a bit faster on the uptake, ran away with the problem immediately.  One of my more socially awkward students (he knows he is, so that’s okay) exclaimed “this is important for me to know!”.  What’s awesome is they got this by the end of the class:

Yup, that’s in Google Docs, although I showed them the final step of selecting “Make Graph”.  Still, I was proud of them and they seemed to want to continue this project.  I don’t want to devote a ton more time to it, but perhaps I’ll make it worth a fair amount of participation points and they can have some awesome conclusions about it at the end.


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