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Expert Corner: Pi Day
Dan Moriarty is a curriculum writer and editor for ExploreLearning, and our chief "demo movie" maker for Gizmos and Reflex. He holds a Master's degree from the University of Virginia in secondary math education, and he taught high school math before joining ExploreLearning.
Well, March 14 is nearly upon us again. You can refer to March 14 as “3-14” if you’re into shorthand. And of course that makes us mathy types think about π (“pi”), which equals about 3.1415926535…, or if you are okay with rounding, just 3.14.
Of course Pi Day isn't just for the math crowd, since this irrational number plays a big role in many science lessons as well. If you’d like to celebrate Pi Day with your students, Gizmos can help.
Basically, the number π shows up whenever you want to measure something circular. Or more generally, whenever you measure anything involving or derived from circles; such as cylinders or sine waves. So if your students are not familiar with π yet, just start by showing them a circle. It could be a plate or a jar-lid or anything else that is basically flat and circular. Review these questions with them:
- What is the diameter of a circle? (Distance across the circle.)
- What is the circumference? (Distance around the circle.)
- And then the kicker... how many diameters would it take to exactly cover the circumference?
The answer to that last question is of course π — thus the formula C = πd — but if students have never seen this before, it could be pretty surprising. The Circles: Circumference and Area Gizmo allows students to explore this relationship quite nicely. For further extension, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics offers a nice lesson plan around this sort of exploration with real objects.
The Measuring Trees Gizmo gives students a chance to learn about tree rings, as well as delving into an ecology lesson. The Gizmo also allows students to measure a tree's diameter (which is pretty tough in real-life without cutting the tree down!) and its circumference. This is another place that students can discover and use the C = πd formula in context.
Finally, one of our newest Gizmos is well-suited for Pi Day. The Measuring Volume Gizmo allows students to find the volume of liquids and solids. They can determine the volume of some solid 3-dimensional figures using formulas. They will discover that the formulas for the volume of a sphere and of a cylinder, since they are circular, involve π. In addition, they'll use the "submerge it in water" technique for finding the volume of irregularly shaped objects.
So, we hope that Gizmos can find a place in your Pi Day celebrations on March 14! And as always, if you celebrate with Gizmos, please do so responsibly. : )
ExploreLearning Educator of the Month
Sam Olivieri, PhD, or "Dr. O" as his students refer to him, teaches sixth grade science at Sugar Land Middle School in Texas. He has worked in 70 countries with the Agency for International Development, and he has been teaching in Fort Bend for the past six years.
Dr. O loves teaching the sixth grade because it is his students' first year of having a dedicated science class. He sees it as his mission to bring the subject alive for them, so that by the end of the year they have a lasting love of science. Not surprisingly, he makes Gizmos a central part of his instruction and has been recognized as a Gizmo Leader for the past three years.
Here is an example of how Dr. O uses Gizmos to enrich his students' science experience. When students have completed the Assessment Questions on a Gizmo such as Rock Cycle, each student is assigned one of the questions to present in a multi-media format. Dr. O video-tapes the students presenting their assigned question and giving the solution process in his or her own words! At the end of the year, each student burns a disc of those presentations and takes home a lasting video record of his or her own science expertise!
"I love using Gizmos with my students, as they allow my students to interact with numerous science concepts which are difficult to bring into the classroom. Gizmos gives them hands-on experiences with real science. It is my mission to have every one of my students leave at the end of the year loving science, and Gizmos helps me to bring that love of science to them."
Reflex Success Stories Keep Rolling In
As you may have already seen from our growing collection of case studies, Reflex has been making a real difference in students' ability to recall math facts.
A study of 2nd grade students at one Atlanta Public School in Georgia has recently revealed some stellar results.
The graph to the right indicates that there was little growth in the AIMSweb math computation assessment for their second graders when comparing fall 2010 to fall 2011 (the red line). After having used Reflex during the winter of 2011, their score (see the green line) went up significantly! A 2nd grade teacher there wrote to us gushing:
"I have GREAT news!!! I am so excited to tell you that I had 14 out of 22 students complete the mad minute with 100%! We have done this for a number of years and I have NEVER had such success. Even the kids who didn't make 100% had 80% or above.
I can now see how much Reflex is helping our kids learn their facts. I have been teaching here for 6 years and there has always been a push to have kids know their math facts and this is the first year I can say with confidence that my kids will be leaving 2nd grade knowing their addition and subtraction facts. Keep up the Reflex incentives and I will keep pushing them to get on in the classroom and at home!!!"
We ran our own analysis of the results at that school, and we can see why the teacher is so optimistic. Among the 52 students who completed 50 days of usage, the mean fluency percentage there climbed from 15% to 78%!
Congratulations to all those hard working students and teachers. Keep up the good work. We can't wait to see your spring 2012 results!
Job Opportunity: Professional Development Manager
More and more educators and school districts are turning to Gizmos and Reflex, and that means ExploreLearning is expanding to meet the demand!
If you have a passion for Gizmos and Reflex and significant experience providing training to educators, please check out our new Regional Professional Development Manager position. This position — plus many others— is listed on our employment page.
Stay in Touch
And as always, if you have a question or comment about Gizmos or Reflex, don't hesitate to contact our Customer Support team using the support form for either Gizmos or Reflex. We would love to hear from you.