Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tracing with the TI-Nspire

Option A: Point On
Option B: Trace

If you are a TI-Nspire user, which method do you use/prefer for tracing? What advantages do you find for each?

The video also gives a glimpse of the new Trace Setting > Enable CALC Menu feature that is available with OS 1.6. Use the up and down arrows to make the region of investigation larger and smaller.

Updated 12/22/08:
When I first began using the TI-Nspire with the 1.1 operating system, I liked and recommended the Point On method. Yes it does show maximum, minimum, and zero when you grab and move the point. The coordinates are displayed and can be changed by double clicking on the x- or y-value. Selecting the y-value is a feature that is easier and more intuitive to do on the Nspire than on any previous handheld. Generally, when I create a document to be sent to students, if I want them to be ready to move a point around to explore the values and see the max, min, & zero, it will appear that it was created with Point On.

Updated 1/1/09
Reasons I would recommend the more versatile Trace method:
- Arrow up to trace multiple functions at the same time
- Type in an x-value and it will automatically go there
- Press enter and it will drop that point (essentially performing a 'Point On')
- Default Trace automatically finds points of interest as you move it along. But you can turn this feature off. (You can't do that for Point On.) When you save that file, it saves the trace setting too.
- You can move the point at discrete increments if you set it to that using Trace Settings.
- With OS 1.6 you now have even more features that can be enabled with trace, including finding the point of infection, max, min, zero, and intersection. This enabled 'CALC menu' will look in the domain you provide for the point of interest.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Physicist's perspective of Santa

I'm currently giving final exams.

I shared a scientific perspective of Santa with my students this week.
There are some funny lines in there. Enjoy.

It is an understatement to say that my five year old son is NOT a fan of Santa.
His latest response about what he wants to be when he grows up is an astronaut, an inventor, and he is going to try to be a Math Hero. I love that guy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Superhero of Math

I've always wanted to be a superhero. Now my dream has come true.
I just received word that I won the Math Hero Award. da-ta-da-daa

My family surprised me when I got home from work. There are some funny video clips of this on my wife's blog.

The purpose of the award, with its $2500 and $2500 matching grant for the school, is to "reward and celebrate teachers and tutors for promoting math achievement to students in a fun and challenging learning environment. "
(The picture to the right is me presenting the check to Principal Brian Hudson.)

This Thanksgiving my family and school have even more to be thankful about. I'm grateful for Raytheon and the work they are doing to promote STEM initiatives. I found a video that explains some of their motivation for having this award.

Raytheon has a great website for encouraging mathematics for the middle grades,

If you know another Math Hero, nominate them next year.

Now if I can just get a cape like my kiddies were wearing when we visited the Children's Museum. I searched the internet to no avail.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pie Chart - Thanksgiving

My 11 year old daughter is making a Thanksgiving Newspaper. To fill an empty spot on the paper she came up with the idea of polling the family on what their favorite pie is. Since we have 9 people in the family I gave her a tip on dividing a circle 9 ways to make a pie chart. She came back a little later and reported the results. I was interested that the first 4 digits of pi were represented 3.14159..
My 12 year old recently received a TI-Nspire CAS for her birthday. She was delighted to see how easy it was to make a pie chart on the Nspire. She loved the dynamic nature of the Data & Statistics application, i.e. the moving dots are really cool.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, our family's annual Thanksgiving letter is available on my wife's blog.

If you are interested, several years ago I did a study of every time the word "thanks", "gratitude" and its variations were used in the Bible. I called this study Biblical Thanksgiving, and it can be found here.

So what is your favorite pie to have for Thanksgiving?
If you looked at the Biblical Thanksgiving study, which verse or observation did you particularly like?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Scripture is integral to our math and science class

The Bible and mathematics & science compliment each other well. At the ACSI convention I had the pleasure of speaking to a little over 30 people who were interested in the topic of Biblical integration in the classroom or a Christian worldview of math and science. I had presented the paper at the ACMS (Association of Christian in the Mathematical Sciences) last summer. So I presented a similar powerpoint to this group. These are available on my Mr. Bird website under 'Student Presentations.'

If I had another opportunity to give a similar talk I know of several things I'd do to improve, including providing a handout and taking more time to prepare for the particular time constraint. Hopefully by that time I would make more progress on a little book I've been working on called "Christ-centered Mathematics: Daily Math Devotionals." In a book format I would be able to better cite sources and give a fuller explanation than the tri-fold Topical Mathematical Memory Verses permits.

Books that I would recommend:
Also consider
To answer the question asked in the comment below, I'd recommend looking at especially the first lesson of the Kuyers Maths project. It gives the quotes and allows the students to think through the implication.

ACSI trip

Thursday & Friday was fall break. I didn't know how all the details of this weekend (that began on Thursday) would work out, but I'd say God worked it out wonderfully.

Thursday morning: I played golf for the first time in about 15 year at the Covenant Classic. (I had actually played varsity golf in high school, but when you need to pay to play, I found other things to do. Disc golf anyone?) It was a beautiful morning in the 40s. I played with Tim Walters and his son. He runs Team Sports, a great place to get shirts and such for your sports team, and he used to teach math with me at Covenant Christian High School. I had a wonderful time playing at an impressive course, Heartland Crossing Golf Links.

I got back home a little before the family got back from their time at home school group. My wife is teaching a science course inspired by Rough Science. We headed up to South Bend around 1:30 were I was to speak at the ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) Teacher Conference.

Thursday afternoon: On the way up we saw a sign for Grissom Air Museum in Peru, IN. Since we got there 15 minutes before it was to close we just visited the gift shop and looked at the airplanes through the fence. I was reminded of another Indiana air museum we had visited in the past which inspired the name for this blog. We would have loved more time, but we headed back up the road. The kiddies were starting to get hungry and we saw a sign for Amish Acres in Nappanee, IN.

After eating one of the best meals in my life, and looking around for a while, I understood better what I had read about Amish Acres being one of the top 100 places to visit in your life. Before departing we played a ring game that was outside near the parking lot. It was a great physics game, in that you use the conservation of energy to pull back a metal ring on a long string, release it so that it has a near zero translational velocity near the hook affixed to the wood post. It took several tries, but some of us got the hang of it.

Friday morning: I left around 6:30 with one of our school administrators to the convention. I'll write more about the "Six ways, yea seven, that Scripture is integral to our math and science classes" paper that I presented later. I praise God that the speaker before me allowed me to use his projector. When we were about 3 hours from home I realized that this conference probably wouldn't supply such things. We also realized that we had left one of our pieces of luggage at home. So everyone got to get a new toothbrush and only some of the kids had their swim suits. The little ones enjoyed swimming with Mrs. Kurtz, Covenant's freshman English, since Mom and Dad didn't have their suits. Yes, several teachers from my school stayed at the Country Inn and Suites with lovely Read & Return program that we got to enjoy on our trip to Florida.

While I was gone, my wife took the children to the some Kids Health Works Museum, which was actually a block from the Century convention center. They said that it was similar to the one they had gone to in Nashville last summer (If you want a laugh, you've got to read that story on my wife's blog), but only one level instead of six.

After seeing everything there was to see there, they went to the South Bend Chocolate Factory (Again, my wife has some nice stories about that adventure.).

Friday afternoon: My session was from 11:45-12:35. The conference was over about that time, so I went out to wait on the corner for my family to find me. A little after 1p.m. the big white van pulls up with a load of happy faces who had chocolate and other confectionery samples for lunch.
On our way out of town we stopped by Potato Creek State Park. We were disappointed that the Nature Center was closed, but the Meadow Maze was a delight. Notice the seven year-old still wearing the hair net from the chocolate tour. A nearby playground made the 5 & 7 year-old think they were in Brown County State Park. Last weekend we had gone on our first ever family camping-in-tents adventure. This church camp out ended with two of our children throwing up. But overall it was such a great time, that if my wife didn't have to work all day Saturday and our oldest daughter wasn't taking a Safe Sitter class (she is looking for jobs if anyone needs an experienced and trained sitter), I had hoped to camp out at Potato Creek State Park so that we could spend part of the day there on Saturday to work on earning a patch/pin with the new Connect, Discover, Explore program that our Department of Natural Resources has started.

On Saturday we went to the Hendrick County Fairgrounds to enjoy a BBQ dinner and listen to Governor Daniels. The kids had a great time and my wife didn't have to worry about dinner. As I was driving the family to church I heard my 5 year-old boy and 7 year-old daughter talking about the coming election in the back of the van. One said, "John McCain." The other replied, "I like old people. I like John McCain." Then at lunch they were talking, and the boy said, "What's that other guy's name?" The girl replied, "Barack." "Oh yeah, I hope Barack Obama only gets 5 votes, and John McCain gets one hundred thousand million." I'm not sure were they learned even who is running for president. On the drive home from church this evening my wife asked him where he had learned about John McCain and the kindergartener said, "I heard about it on the TV and radio." I think one of his older sisters had been trying to explain what's going on. He went on to give the kindergarten commentary of "I'm scared if Barack Obama becomes president. He kills babies. John McCain likes babies. I hope John McCain wins."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Kinematic Calculus with the TI-Nspire

In calculus the other day we collected some data with a CBR2 (motion detector) and a racquet ball rolling up an incline. This was a great activity to discuss the relationship between a position vs. time graph and velocity-time. I'm going to work on writing up a procedure for this to be student led activity rather than just a demonstration. I love the dynamic nature of Data & Statistics application on the TI-Nspire.
Tonight I'm going camping with the family. Check out the calculus that came up the last time I went camping.

Update 12/18/2008: Today on an activity I wrote was posted. It gives more documentation about using the CBR2 motion detector with the TI-Nspire CAS. "Gettin' the Swing" is the name of the activity. It is in the archive & it is #11689 on the Activity Exchange.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Black and White Biking

On the first day of kindergarten my son learned how to bicycle without training wheels. My wife took our seven year old to get glasses. While she was gone I took the rest of the kiddies for a walk/bicycle ride. When we got back I gave some focused attention to the new kindergartener.

Part of the issue for not learning at a younger age like his sisters was that he didn't have a bike that had training wheels. He has a cool blue bike. I held on to the seat, handlebars or onto him as we went around the block. About half way around the block I would give him a push into the grass and he would peddle a bit and then come to a gentle stop and safely put his foot down. By the time we got 3/4 around the block I would give a push on the sidewalk ... VICTORY. He was totally praising the Lord. The excitement that he was able actually bicycle was a delight to witness. When we got back home his siblings rejoiced with him. Sometimes he still needs a little help getting started. But most of the time he can get going and is off on his own.

So why black and white?

The next day or so after he learned to bicycle there were several pedestrians (a.k.a. siblings) that he was trying to avoid and he had a minor incident with the mailbox. There theory goes that around this time he got a flat tire in his back wheel.

Last week, when I would bicycle home from work, just about everyday he would ask me if I could help him fix his bike. He already had it all disassembled. I would ask him if he got a new tube for it when he went to the store that day, and sadly they hadn't. So what we do is he rides one of his sisters' little bikes. A problem, of course, is that they are not blue. The reason I changed the setting on the camera to black and white was because the poor little lad had to use a bike that was a bit too pink for my taste. He is thankful for what he has or what is available for him.
Here is a picture from that first day - the day of victory. He is holding in his hand a Superman sticker that our next door neighbor gave him when the new bicyclist announced to him that he could now ride his bike. Yep, I think he proclaimed the good news to several people on the street. We put the sticker on the front of his bike. Now we just need to get a tube so he can ride it again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekend fun after school has begun

After my first week back to teaching, I was quite exhausted. With back to school activities in the evening, along with writing, grading, and preparing lessons, I obviously didn't spend as much time with the family as I had over most of the summer. It was nice having a weekend together.

We had a church picnic at a park on the North side of town. The park embraced their Indiana roots, it's theme was a farm. Note the tractor kiddie slide and silo for ages 5-12. The 'creek' with spouting water forming lovely parabolas was a surprise treat. (We didn't exactly bring clothes for playing in the water. But they went ahead and got wet and had fun.)

We had beautiful weather this weekend.

Yesterday was so lovely that I took the family for a Lord's Day walk in the park after church. It is so helpful to have a day of rest. In explaining the motivation for students to study math and science I pointed out the example of Eric Liddill. He enjoyed God's presence in everything that he pursued. With the Olympics happening right now, his example is quite timely.

We enjoy reading together. New glasses make the Child's Story Bible even more clear.

It looks like this guy really loves cuddling up for a time of rest.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Children's Museum

School is about to start. Today we are going to the Indiana State Fair. This is usually our last family activity of the summer. It has been a full summer. When we got back from Florida, mom had to get in some hours at work. In between some trips I took to Dallas, while mom was at work I took the kiddies to what I hear is the best Children's Museum in the country (maybe even the world?). I renewed our membership.

There are so many great things to do there. We often stop by to visit the Info Zone, an Indianapolis Marion County Public Library branch that is inside the Museum. We even brought books to return and get credit for the Indy Adventures summer reading program. Indianapolis has the best librarians.

There are a couple of special exhibits going on right now.

I was curious about the Curious George exhibit so we went there first. We found out they even had a Curious George play down in the Lilly Theater on the first floor. George, monkeys should have tails. I'm curious what happened to his?

When we walked in for our second visit within a week, low and behold, there was Super Children's Museum Man. He informed us that his true identity was "Captain Extraordinary."

I don't know if a characteristic of all males is to be interested in superheroes, but I know I am.

We had a
great time at the huge room that was dedicated to the past and present of Comic Book Heroes. The kids had a fun time of dress up. While some citizens were driving in downtown Metropolis, the Dark Knight swooped in to rescue them and make everyone Super Children.

As you walk the ramp up to the next level there is a crazy Fireworks of Glass work of art that reminds some of our children of each other's hair. The powerfully moving Power of Children exhibit, which replaced the old history of Indiana exhibit, tells of the lives of Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White.

We, of course, had to go to the top floor and ride the carousel, and the bottom floor provided some hilarious good times with dinosaurs. We even made a stop by the Dinosphere before leaving.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Summer projects

My goal last summer (or maybe it was the summer before that, but it didn't get done until the beginning of last summer) was to construct a fence for our house. A fence can add beauty to a house. It can give a mom increased comfort that her little ones won't inadvertently find themselves in the traffic passing by the front of the house. My back door neighbor at our previous house helped a friend tear down his tall privacy fence. He asked if I wanted to use that material. After cutting it down so it would go further installing the fence I power-washed it and it looked great. This time I even stained it. So I've built two fences in my life. For both I used my good ol' TI-89 to graph the equation and then I use 'Trace" to get the height value I needed. (Interestingly, building the fence was the last time I had used that TI-89 Titanium. Last summer I moved on to using and teaching with the TI-Nspire CAS.)
Both fences have been modeled after my favorite shapes, the hyperbolic cosine. Some may know it better as a catenary. Inverted, this amazing shape is great for providing a smooth ride to a vehicle with square wheels: link 1, link 2. You may also enjoy the poem my favorite mathematical physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, wrote about 'an inextensible heavy chain' in "A Problem in Dynamics" (see page 317-18 of his biography and try to read it with a Scottish accent.) I quote a portion of this on page 8 of a paper I wrote a while back.

So what is a project for this summer?

You may recall a recent post where I stated the goal was to park our little mini-van in the garage this winter. Much to my surprise, when I got back from a recent trip, our smaller vehicle was IN THE GARAGE. (Thanks sweet wife!) I don't know if this has ever happened in the five years we've lived here. This may be partially attributed to our lack of a garage door opener. Perhaps we will now consider making this expenditure. Although there probably was a day not too long ago when people actually got out of their car and hoisted the door manually, got back in the car, and drove in. Come to think of it, my grandfather doesn't have an automatic garage door opener, but his is on hinges and opens out.