Follow Adelie Penguin Chicks with the Penguin Science Program

Would you like to incorporate more real data into your class? Are your students fascinated by penguins? Consider participating in the 2010-2011 Adelie Penguin breeding season program, as described below by coordinator Jean Pennycook!

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Dear Educators,

Welcome to the 2010-2011 Adelie Penguin breeding season. Follow along as Adelie Penguin families raise their chicks (http://www.penguinscience.com/education/royds_nestcheck.php) in the harshest environment on Earth.

Students keep a field journal based on daily photos from Antarctica during the breeding season starting Nov 7 – Jan 28. Other activities for your classroom include: receive a postcard from Antarctica (http://www.penguinscience.com/education/postcards.php), design a flag to fly over the colony (http://www.penguinscience.com/education/design_flag.php), ask a researcher a question, discover how penguins are coping with global climate change, gallery of adaptation photos, field notes, and many other classroom ready activities. Have your class watch for the first penguins of the season to arrive at Cape Royds, and let us know when you see them. Our Penguin cam takes a picture of the colony at Cape Royds every day. Go to our home page: www.penguinscience.com and click on the webcam.

Questions? Email me at jean.pennycook@gmail.com.

Jean Pennycook
Penguin Outreach Coordinator

Math and Baseball

The baseball season is just warming up and the playoffs are around the corner. Why not bring “America’s Pastime” into the math classroom? The following problems challenge students to exercise some of the skills they learn in the middle school curriculum.

Baseball Fantasy
These two activities from PBS Mathline have pairs of students act as co-managers of a baseball team. Each pair receives a pack of baseball cards. They compute and analyze the key statistical data of the given players, make decisions on who they want to keep and who they want to trade, arrange their lineups, and play simulated games. Students use the key statistical data to construct individual player spinners, determine the line up, and play a simulated baseball game. The ultimate goal is to be the manager of the winning team of the Fantasy Baseball World Series.

What Is Round, Hard and Sold for $3 Million?
This activity challenges students to determine which is worth more today: Babe Ruth’s 1927 home-run record-breaking ball or Mark McGwire’s 70th home-run ball that sold in 1999 for $3 million. Compound interest is the main topic.

Who’s On First Today?
In this activity, students use hits and at-bat statistics to determine which of two baseball players has a better batting average.

Fun with Baseball Stats
In this lesson plan, students use baseball cards to convert statistics to decimals, fractions and percentages. Then, they use their statistics in playing a game. Activity sheets can be downloaded.

Come to the Middle School Portal 2: Math and Science Pathways online network to discuss this and many other topics and connect with colleagues!


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/29/2011.

Probability in Real Life

Your students may find it difficult to believe that the concepts of probability really have anything to do with everyday life. If they did, would they still grow up to buy all those lottery tickets? In the Powerball Lottery, the largest in the Unites States, the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 195,200,000!

So says the Book of Odds, which offers blogs, articles, and thousands of thoroughly researched odds on accidents and death, daily life and activities, health and illness, relationships and society. Its carefully calculated probabilities range from the odds of being the only one to survive a plane crash, to the odds of having a heart attack, to the odds of having ever eaten cold pizza for breakfast.

Once your students are immersed in these odds, you might like to introduce the Game of Skunk. Playing and analyzing the game engages students in real-world applications of probabilistic thinking as they examine choice versus chance and practice decision-making.

On the purely theoretical level, your class would enjoy meeting the Smithville Families. This lesson explores the probabilities for the births of boys and girls in a large family. The outcome of a coin toss is used to indicate the birth of a boy or girl. And then you might compare the conclusions reached with those found in the Book of Odds.

My prediction is high on your enjoying these resources!


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/21/2011.

Citizen Science, Real Data, and Web 2.0 Combine in Snowtweets Project

Real data and citizen science projects are wonderful ways to engage students, but they often are best conducted during the fall and spring. What’s a teacher to do in the colder months of winter?

 The Snowtweets Project from the University of Waterloo has one answer. The Snowtweets Project provides a way for people interested in snow measurements to quickly broadcast their own snow depth measurements to the web. These data are then picked up by our database and mapped in near real time. The project uses the micro-blogging site Twitter as its data broadcasting scheme.

Participants can use a data visualization tool called Snowbird that allows them to explore the reported snow depths around the globe. The viewer shows where the reports are located and how much snow there is at each reported site.

How can you participate in Snowtweets?

1. Register for a free Twitter account at www.twitter.com.

2. Measure the snow depth where you live, work, or play.

3. Use your Twitter account to tweet the information to the project.

See more detailed instructions at http://snowcore.uwaterloo.ca/snowtweets/snowbird/.

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/12/2012.

Let’s Go to a Math Fair!

How could we organize a math fair? And what kinds of projects would our students present? I’m not thinking here of projects that would be judged, as in a science fair, but rather investigations and activities that would engage middle school students and be presented for the whole school as well as parents. One idea comes from a 7th grade class at Frisbie Middle School in Rialto, California.

Multicultural Math Fair
Ten activities for the fair, each based on a different cultural heritage, are well described in both Spanish and English. Included here are tips on how to set up a math fair as well as student handouts and free software for specific activities, such as the Tower of Hanoi. You will also find links to resources for related activities, such as studying symmetry and patterns in Navajo rugs. A unique teacher-created site!

If you are looking for more project ideas, here are some I think would make great fair presentations and involve students in learning sound math:

Pascal’s Triangle
Here are three ways to explore the famous triangle: by finding patterns and relations within the triangle, solving a pizza toppings problem in Antonio’s Pizza Palace, or working with an interactive web unit. The set of three investigations could work well as one fair project.

The Noon Day Project: Measuring the Circumference of the Earth
In the course of this online project, students learn about Eratosthenes and his experiment, do a similar experiment by collaborating with other schools, and analyze and reflect on the collected data to determine the accuracy of their measurements and what they learned. The project provides detailed instructions, activities, reference materials, online help, and a teacher area.

The Data Library
This web site contains an extensive list of ongoing data-sharing projects that would work well as fair projects. It also offers a great set of links to data on population, baseball stats, minimum wage, etc., excellent for students working on any statistics project.

Polyhedra in the Classroom
A set of activities developed for middle school students on aspects of polyhedra. The teacher-creator, Suzanne Alejandre, includes not only instructions for each activity but also assessment suggestions and her mathematical objectives for the unit.

Down the Drain
This Internet-based collaborative project allows students to share information about water usage with other students from around the country and the world. Based on data collected by their household members and their classmates, students determine the average amount of water used by one person in a day. They then compare this to the average amount of water used per person per day in other parts of the world. Students publish reports, photos, or other work for the fair presentation.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 10/10/2011.