Running around a Track II

10 Mar

I gave a different class of students Running around a Track II recently.

I started by showing them the same picture of the start of the 2012 Olympic Women’s 400 M race.


I changed the prompt, though. What do you wonder?

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I wonder why they start at different lines instead of at the same place.           1

I wonder who 1st realized that the smaller of the concentric circles would be shorter           1

I wonder whats special about this picture?           1

I wonder why if you are running on the outter circle its the same distance as running on the inner circle 1

I wonder what the distance is that they are running       1

I wonder what event they are running?    1

I wonder why tracks are ovals        1

I wonder if each one of those arcs are similar by using dialations         1

I wonder what the exact distance of all of the lanes are  1

I wonder what is happening.           1

I wonder if the circles are cocentric            1

I wonder how big the race track is as a whole.      1

I wonder why all of the starting points are in different places   1

I wonder what the ratio of the innermost ring is to the rest of the rings… or are they all congruent?           1

I wonder why the runners start at different starting positions. 1

I wonder why there are flags that are the same   1

I wonder if its better to be closer up on the outside lane than farther back on the inside lane         1

I wonder if that’s the olympics        1

I wonder which lane is the shortest distance        1

I wonder how they decided how far back to put the first runner          1

I wonder how I can figure out how to find the different measures of each of those arcs of the circle          1

[And from my cynic:] I wonder what question you’re going to ask about this image.   1

I wonder why are there so many americans         1

I wonder what shape the track is   1

I wonder why there are 3 people from us and why they are not starting from same side?   1

I wonder who the runners are        1

I wonder if the distance in the inner circle is different than the distance in the outer circle even if they start in differert places           1

I wonder if all of the starting points are marked off by distance or angle.        1

I wonder why the track runners are spaced apart rather than running all together. 1

I wonder what the arc measure of the track is?    1

Next, I sent out a Quick Poll of a question from a released ACT that students should be able answer as a result of the lesson. Who already knows how to solve this? Who knows how to solve it quickly, since the ACT is timed? I removed the choices, just to see how students answered without them. We didn’t talk about the results. I told them we would revisit the question at the end of the lesson. Just less than half of the students had it correct initially: 14/31.

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Before we started analyzing what was happening with each lane, I asked the students whether the lane lines were similar. Just for the record, I wouldn’t have thought to ask this question on my own. It was suggested in the commentary for the task on Illustrative Math, so I thought I would try it.

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I’m not sure I really had a backup plan for this formative assessment check. Not one student got this correct? How should we proceed? Understand that at this point, the students don’t know if everyone is correct or no one is correct. There is a great feature of Navigator that lets me “show correct answer” or not. While I monitor student responses with my projector screen frozen, I decide whether I will show the correct answer.

What does it mean for two figures to be similar?

Several students wanted to answer. I called on F.K., because F.K. loves dilations, and I knew that she would explain similarity in terms of transformations.

Two figures are similar if there is a sequence of transformations including a dilation that will map one figure onto the other.

Okay – so can we describe a dilation that will map one lane onto another lane? What would be the center of the dilation?

At this point, we moved to the technology. I had created the track on a Graphs page of TI-Nspire. Mainly because I wanted to prove that I could without asking my technical author friends Bryson and Jeff. It’s not beautiful, but it is functional. I didn’t even use this document in the class with Running around a Track I, but maybe it would be helpful now.

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I have a slider set up to change the radius of the circular part of the track. Are the lanes of the track similar? Does the technology help you see it?

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What happens if we dilate the straight part of the track about the center of the track by a scale factor of 1.1? And then let’s dilate the circular part of the track using the same center. (Bryson and Jeff could probably figure out how to make this happen all at once – my track is in 3 separate parts.) Is there a dilation to show that the lanes of the track are similar?

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The straight part of our track is a problem. There is no line that contains the center of dilation and the endpoint of each straight part of the track.

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One of the students wondered if each one of those arcs are similar by using dilations. Now if we are just talking the arcs, then yes, they are similar using a dilation about the center of the arc – but not using the center of the track.

The technology helped us make sense of whether the lane lines are similar.

Now back to the real task. This task is a bit different – it has less scaffolding than the first task. Students jump right in to calculating the perimeter of the track 20 cm inside lane 1 and 30 cm inside lane 2 so that they can determine how far ahead the runner in lane 2 needs to be ahead of the runner in lane 1. I sent a poll to collect the results.

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It was disastrous, and the bell was about to ring.

How in the world could I recover the lesson?

We went back to the picture, and ended class by talking in more detail about the diagrams.

We started the next class calculating the perimeter of the paint on the most inside lane.

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Even then, we didn’t have everyone with us. Don’t you love that 5 of my students just assumed the inside lane was 400 m without doing any calculations?

We went back to the questions on Running around a Track II, though and really did make progress.

To close the lesson, I sent the Quick Poll from the start of class:

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We are up to 80% correct, from just under 50% at the beginning of the lesson.

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And with choices, we have 90% correct. I finally showed the students the results and we talked about the misconception for choice C.

I think it is interesting to ask students which practices they used when working on a task.


And which would you choose if you could only choose one Math Practice?


I have shared before that my goal isn’t just to provide opportunities for my students to use the Math Practices in class – but also for them to recognize when they are using them. I ask my students to write a journal reflection each quarter on using a math practice.

N.R. writes about this task: In class today and yesterday, we worked on a problem about the track of the 400 meter dash in the Olympics. While working on this problem, we used the math practice of modelling with mathematics. We applied what we learned about circles in this unit to figuring out how far apart runners in different lanes have to start in order to run the same distance and to end at the same area in the straightway section. When solving this problem, I had to use the equations for circumference and perimeter and combine them. Once I finished working the problem, I decided that the runner in lane 1 has to start 7.037 meters behind the runner in lane 2. I also found that the runner in lane 2 has to start 7.666 meters in behind the runner in lane 3. This problem has helped me to be very attentive to detail. In this problem I had to be very careful that I worked everything correctly and completely.


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3 responses to “Running around a Track II

  1. Travis

    March 10, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Thanks for the great presentations at the T³ Conference……so on my bike commute to work today I was pondering the dilation aspect and wondered, I wonder if the students assumed it was a dilation because they had only seen example after example of dilations. I wonder if I had interspersed non-examples, would this had helped. I wonder if I could introduce [invent?] a Piecewise Dilation [k=2 but for different centers]? I wonder if I loaded the question with ‘Maria emphatically announces it is definitely a dilation and you want to prove her wrong, what would you politely say to her?’ I wondered if lane 2 was actually better and what part psychology plays not being in lane 1? Thanks for another great write up.


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