Tag Archives: #SlowMath

Is This a Rectangle?

Is This a Rectangle?

One of our learning intentions in our Coordinate Geometry unit is for students to be able to say I can use slope, distance, and midpoint along with properties of geometric objects to verify claims about the objects.

G-GPE. Expressing Geometric Properties with Equations

B. Use coordinates to prove simple geometric theorems algebraically

  1. Use coordinates to prove simple geometric theorems algebraically. For example, prove or disprove that a figure defined by four given points in the coordinate plane is a rectangle; prove or disprove that the point (1, √3) lies on the circle centered at the origin and containing the point (0, 2).

We recently used the Illustrative Mathematics Task Is This a Rectangle to provide students the opportunity to practice.

We also used Jill Gough’s and Kato Nims’ visual #ShowYourWork learning progression to frame how to write a solution to the task.

How often do we tell our students Show Your Work only to get papers on which work isn’t shown? How often do we write Show Your Work next to a student answer for which the student thought she had shown her work? How often do our students wonder what we mean when we say Show Your Work?

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The Show Your Work learning progression begins to help students understand what we mean when we say Show Your Work. I have seen it empower students to ask each other for feedback on their work: Can you read this and understand it without asking me any questions? It has been transformative for my AP Calculus students as they write Free Response questions that will be scored by readers who can’t ask them questions and don’t know what math they can do in their heads.

We set the timer for 5 minutes of quiet think time. Most students began by sketching the graph on paper or creating it using their dynamic graphs software. [Some students painfully and slowly drew every tick mark on a grid, making me realize I should have graph paper more readily available for them.]

They began to look for and make use of structure. Some sketched in right triangles to see the slope or length of the sides. Some used slope and distance formulas to calculate the slope or length of the sides.

I saw several who were showing necessary but not sufficient information to verify that the figure is a rectangle. I wondered how I could steer them towards a solution without telling them they weren’t there yet.

I decided to summarize a few of the solutions I was seeing and send them in a Quick Poll, asking students to decide which reasoning was sufficient for verifying that the figure is a rectangle.

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Students discussed and used what they learned to improve their work.

It occurred to me that it might be helpful for them to determine the Show Your Work level for some sample student work. And so I showed a sample and asked the level.

But I didn’t plan ahead for that, and so I hurriedly selected two pieces of student work from last year to display. I was pleased with the response to the first piece of work. Most students recognized that the solution is correct and that the work could be improved so that the reader knows what the student means.

I wish that I hadn’t chosen the second piece of work. Did students say that this work was at level 3 because there are lots of words in the explanation and plenty of numbers on the diagram? Unfortunately, the logic is lacking: adjacent sides perpendicular is not a result of parallel opposite sides. Learning to pay close enough attention to whether an argument is valid is good, hard work.

Tasks like this often take longer than I expect. I’m not sure whether that is because I am now well practiced at easing the hurry syndrome or whether that is because learning to Show Your Work just takes longer than copying the teacher’s work. And so the journey continues …

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Posted by on April 11, 2017 in Coordinate Geometry, Geometry, Polygons


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Using Technology Alongside #SlowMath to Promote Productive Struggle

Using technology alongside #SlowMath to promote productive struggle
2017 T³™ International Conference
Sunday, March 12, 8:30 – 10 a.m.
Columbus AB, East Tower, Ballroom Level
Jennifer Wilson
Jill Gough

One of the Mathematics Teaching Practices from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ (NCTM) “Principles to Actions” is to support productive struggle in learning mathematics.

  • How does technology promote productive struggle?
  • How might we provide #SlowMath opportunities for all students to notice and question?
  • How do activities that provide for visualization and conceptual development of mathematics help students think deeply about mathematical ideas and relationships?

[Cross posted at Experiments in Learning by Doing]


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A Heuristic Approach to Angles in Circles

I am taking a qualitative research class right now, and my mind is full of lots of new-to-me words (many of which my spell checker doesn’t know, either): hermeneutics, phenomenology, ethnography, ethnomethodology, interpretivism, postpositivism, etc. One that has struck me is heuristic, the definition of which I can actually remember because I try to teach heuristically. (The word does not yet roll off of my tongue, but the definition, I get.)

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On Monday, our content was G-C.A Understand and apply theorems about circles

  1. Identify and describe relationships among inscribed angles, radii, and chords. Include the relationship between central, inscribed, and circumscribed angles; inscribed angles on a diameter are right angles; the radius of a circle is perpendicular to the tangent where the radius intersects the circle.

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We started with a Quick Poll. I asked students for their best guess for the angle measure. I showed the results without displaying the correct answer, noting the lowest and highest guesses.

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Students moved to the technology. What happens to the angle measures as you move the points on the circle?

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They moved to the next page, which revealed more information. What happens to the angle measures as you move the points on the circle?

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I sent the poll again. There was one team who hadn’t answered yet, so I made a brief stop by their table. Last semester, I remember reading something about how a certain example might give students the eyes to see what you’re trying to get them to see. So we moved the points around to look something like this.

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If you have 49 and 43, how can you get 46?

Changing the numbers purposefully helped them see.

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I sent one more poll before we talked about why.

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So we gave our best guess, and then we used technology to explore. Students practiced MP8 I can look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning as they noticed what stayed the same and what changed with an angle whose vertex is in the center of the circle. They generalized the result. But we hadn’t yet discussed why that happens.

Students practice MP7 I can look for and make use of structure. By now they know our mantra for MP7: What can you make visible that isn’t yet pictured?

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I saw a line constructed parallel to the given line, which made alternate interior angles visible.

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I saw a chord drawn that made a triangle visible.

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I asked students to write down everything they knew about the angles in this diagram.

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They made suggestions about what we know. They didn’t say the relationships exactly like I would. I wrote them down anyway. They didn’t recognize the exterior angle of the triangle and so ending up proving the Exterior Angle Theorem again off to the side. I wrote it down anyway.

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And so the journey continues, always trying to enable my students to discover or learn something for themselves (and sometimes succeeding) …

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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in Circles, Geometry


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Introduction to Curve Sketching, Part 2

While students were working on this antiderivative from a Desmos Activity called Sketchy Derivatives, I heard several students ask how they know where to place the y-intercept.

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We didn’t have time to answer that question during the first lesson of the unit, but we started with it during the second lesson.

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Should the cubic start decreasing or increasing? How do you know?

[Yes, I do know that I can anonymize the names. However, by the time I thought of that, these two responses were no longer adjacent. It would be nice to be able to drag the responses to different locations in case you want to compare/contrast several specific responses at the same time. ☺]

Then we looked at these.

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They all have the same basic shape. Is one more right than the other?

Students began to think about all of the curves that have y’=2x, and so while they know something about the importance of the constant, one won’t be more right than the other until we learn about area under the curve.

I had the Second Derivative Grapher from Calculus Nspired queued during the previous class, but I decided it would be better for students to “do” instead of “discuss” for the last few minutes of class. We looked at it next to make the relationship between the second derivative and concavity of the original function more clear.

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Students put all of this information together to begin to analyze a function given the graph of its derivative. The results of our formative assessments seem to indicate that students have a better understanding of the relationship between f-f’-f” than they have in the past. I’ll know for sure later today, though, after their summative assessment. And so the journey continues …


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Introduction to Curve Sketching, Part 1

Learning Intentions:

Level 4:

I can use the graph of the derivative to sketch a graph of the original function.

Level 3:

I can use the graph of the original function to deduce information about the first and second derivatives.

I can use the graph of the derivative to deduce information about the second derivative and the original function.

I can use the graph of the second derivative to deduce information about the first derivative and the original function.

Level 2:

I can determine when a function is concave up or concave down and where it has points of inflection.

Level 1:

I can determine when a function is increasing or decreasing and where it has maxima and minima.

We were on the first day of a new unit. I included two questions on the opener to ensure students know what we mean by increasing/decreasing and concave up/concave down intervals. As expected students were familiar with increasing/decreasing and not so familiar with concave up/concave down.

Based on the results, we discussed what it means to be concave up and concave down. Someone asked how we would be able to tell for sure where the graph changes concavity, which we get to learn during the unit.

We started the lesson with a few Quick Polls for students to determine which graph was the derivative, given the graphs of a function and its derivative. The polls were based on Graphical Derivatives from Calculus Nspired. I sent the poll, asked students to answer individually, stopped the poll, asked students to explain their thinking to a partner. If needed, I sent the poll again to see whether they wanted to change their response after talking with their partner. I had 6 polls prepared. I sent 3.

I listened while students shared their thinking. I selected three conversations for the whole class.

  1. A student who knew which was which based on the power rule, which she learned during the last unit.
  2. A student who knew that the slope of the tangent line at the minimum of the parabola should be zero, which is the value of the line at z=0.
  3. A student who noticed that the line (derivative) was negative (below the x-axis) when the parabola was decreasing and positive (above the x-axis) when the parabola was increasing.

Again, as I listened to the pairs talking, I selected a few students to share their thinking with the whole class.

  1. The first student who shared used the maximum and minima to determine which had to be the derivative, since the derivative is zero at those x-values.
  2. The second student thought about what the slope of the tangent line would be at certain x-values and whether the y-values of the other function complied.
  3. A third student volunteered a fourth student to discuss her thinking: she noted that the graph of the function (b) changed concavity at the max/min of the derivative (b).

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After students talked, I sent the poll again to see if anyone was convinced otherwise.

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Two students briefly discussed how they used increasing/decreasing and concavity to determine the derivative.

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Next we began to solidify what increasing/decreasing and concave up/concave down intervals look like using Derivative Analysis from Calculus Nspired.

I asked students to notice and note.

Where is the function increasing? Where is it decreasing?
What is the relationship between the slope of the tangent line and where the function is increasing and decreasing?

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Where is the function concave up? Where is it concave down?

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What does the tangent line have to do with where the function is concave up and concave down?

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Can you look at a graph and estimate intervals of concavity?

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I was able to see what students were noting on paper and hear what they were noting in our conversation, but I didn’t send any polls during this part of the lesson.

Next we looked at Derivative Grapher from Calculus Nspired.

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We changed the graph to f(x)=cos(x). We already know the derivative is f’(x)=sin(x). What if we were only given the graph of the derivative? How could we use that graph to determine information about the original function?

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I had more for us to discuss as a whole class, but I wanted to know what they had learned before the class ended. I used a Desmos Activity called Sketchy Derivatives to see what students had learned – given a function, sketch its derivative; and given a derivative, sketch an antiderivative. The original activity was from Michael Fenton. I modified it to go back and forth between sketching the derivative and antiderivative instead of doing all derivatives first and all antiderivatives second, and I added a few questions so that students could begin to clarify their thinking using words.

We spent the last minutes of class looking at an overlay of some of their sketches.

Could you figure out exactly where to sketch the horizontal line?

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Most students have the vertex of the parabola near the right x-coordinate. Should the antiderivative be concave up or concave down?

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Most students have the derivative crossing the x-axis near the correct location.

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The bell rang. Another #lessonclose failure. But thankfully, there are do-overs as the journey continues …


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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Applications of Differentiation, Calculus


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MP5 – The Center of the Circle

How do you give students the opportunity to practice “I can use appropriate tools strategically”?


How would your students find the center of a circle?

Every year, I am amazed at the connections students make between properties of circles that we have explored and what the center of the circle has to do with those properties.

We started on paper.

Some students moved their thoughts to technology.

Whose work would you select for an individual and/or whole class discussion?

Could we use the tangents to a circle from a point to find the center of the circle?

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Could we use the intersection of the angle bisectors of an equilateral triangle inscribed in a circle to find the center of the circle?

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Could we use the perpendicular bisector of a chord of a circle to find the center of the circle?

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Could we use the intersection of the perpendicular bisectors of a pentagon circumscribed about a circle to find the center of the circle?

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Could we use the intersection of the perpendicular bisectors of several chords of a circle to find the center of the circle?

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Could we use a right triangle inscribed in a circle to find the center of the circle?

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And so the journey continues …

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Posted by on September 15, 2016 in Circles, Geometry


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Seeing the Definition of Derivative

Big Idea 2 from the 2016-2017 AP Calculus Curriculum Framework is Derivatives.

Enduring Understanding 2.1: The derivative of a function is defined as the limit of a difference quotient and can be determined using a variety of strategies.

Mathematical Practice for AP Calculus (MPAC) 2: Connecting Concepts

  1. relate the concept of a limit to all aspects of calculus
  2. Students can connect concepts to their visual representation with and without technology.


How do you introduce the definition of a derivative?

We start with the visual of a tangent line at a point and a secant line containing the point.

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We don’t need calculus to determine the slope of the secant line. We do need calculus to determine the slope of the tangent line.

How might we use the slope of the secant line to determine the slope of the tangent line?

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Posted by on September 9, 2016 in Calculus, Derivatives


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