Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 21 2010

Infinitely Thin Cucumber Salad

We were literally eating Calculus problems today. And running around with knives. And it got a little out of control. And perhaps I let these things happen because my teacher soul has never been good at discipline.

I started the morning at Safeway trying to buy food that looked like you could form it by rotating a function around an axis. It also needed to be on sale and tasty. I ended up with a cucumber, apple, brownie bites, easter eggs, and muffins. Then I created an awesome worksheet that I’m proud of. Instead of warm up I listed the problems as “appetizers” and then the “Main Course” was example problems like “find the volume of an apple by creating a function that looks like an apple when rotated around an axis.”

I was going to cut up the cucumber but some of the students were so excited about trying to cut it into infinitely many infinitely thin slices that I gave them the knife. Erick joked around in an attempt to make infinitely thin slices and said we’d be here for awhile. I’m not sure how much seeing Erick cut up a cucumber helped us model it with Calculus but when he was doing something ridiculous with a knife I heard a kid say under his breath “I love this class.” I know that I shouldn’t be proud that someone like my class because I gave an 18 year old boy a knife and a cucumber but it was exciting to hear.

I walked around with Brownie Bites asking “Do you need a brownie bite to help you model the problem?” Of course the kids did need brownie bites to figure things out but we did end up writing a bunch of equations to model real world situations and re learned the formula for an ellipse so that we could model the volume of an Easter egg.
The only unfortunate part of this lesson is that kids were way more interested in the food and the knife than the math. I do think that they all ended up with some math on their papers and a good spacial understanding of what we are doing but who knows. I think I’m going to keep a hold of the knife when I try it tomorrow.

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    Learning more about life than math…

    Las Vegas Valley
    High School

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