Barbie is bungie jumping in math class!


Looking for success stories with a positive twist  I found one about a middle school Geometry class where students learn how many rubber bands will provide the maximum amount of bungee jumping thrill for a Barbie doll, determining how far they can drop her from the ceiling to the floor before she makes impact. I would love to be in that class!  When I searched the web I found many links, videos, and images of this new way of teaching problem solving as encouraged by the common core. In classrooms all over the country Barbie and Ken are bungie jumping from staircases, the tops of lockers, and ladders, only to name a few.

The story is from an Oklahoma teacher who commented about his students who are collecting data, using data to make predictions, graphing their results, and they’re learning about slope and linear relationships. The best part is that they persevere in this problem solving assignment. They don’t give up, because they really want to see if and how it will work.

The Barbie Doll problem is one of many ways to see a common core standard in action.  “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them” is one of the first of the new Common Core math standards.  When the common core brings math to life, we can all agree, it can be a good thing.

More about this story can be found at the National Education Association’s website, a great resource for common core learning experiences.

Setting attainable goals…

Having a far reaching standard can intimidate even the strongest educator, student, and parent. However, setting proximal (short term) attainable goals is the path to insuring success, and taking steps towards building self efficacy.Baseball (1)

The common core is a systematic approach to learning that inspires the educator to help even the youngest student set realistic goals that can be reached in a shorter period of time.  It allows us to individualize instruction, and manage the input of information through systematic approaches to learning.

The first time I heard the term “cognitively guided instruction”, I wished someone had known this effective strategy during my years of mathematics instruction.  In all the years of meaningless memorization no one ever asked me how I arrived at the answer. Considering the correct response is a very small part of what makes children think logically, I often wonder why we don’t ask children who respond incorrectly how they arrived at their responses.  Piaget did this always asking those he tested to explain to him how they arrived at the “wrong” response. A key ingredient of mathematics reasoning, and the common core encourages us to look beyond the response and into the mathematical reasoning of all children.

The link  video provides a better example than I could explain of what CGI looks and sounds like.  Note the teachers input and the students response.  Notice how he words the questions to motivate the student to share with him the process by which she came to what appears to be a simple mathematical solution.  By incorporating this method into mathematics instruction we are investigating the processing instead of the response.

(1) CGI 1:

(2) CGI 2: