Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Cape Canaveral: Then & Now" tour from KSC

I was pretty much in the dark about Cape Canaveral before this trip. And until Tuesday, the picture to the left shows about as close as I was able to get. (This is a picture of the Delta II, America's workhorse rocket, the night before it was launched last week.)

What is today called Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is where the US has launched just about everything into space except for the manned launches beginning with Apollo 8. The Shuttle and Saturn V were launched from Kennedy Space Station launch complex 39 A and B. B is now being converted over to support the Constellation Program. (I just found a virtual tour of CCAFS. You actually get to see some things closer up, then what I got to see on my 2+ hour tour.) The first stop was the United States Air Force Space & Missile Museum. Here I am pretending that I am pressing the launch button for the still active launch pad 17 that sent up the Delta II rocket and GLAST satellite last Wednesday.

It was really cool driving by and walking on the launch sites where history was made!

I've been reading "Go for Launch: An illustrated history of Cape Canaveral".
So, this week I took that tour starting at the Kennedy Space Center called "Cape Canaveral: Then and Now" where I actually got to see the old block houses, launch pads, and the current gantries and facilities where we send objects into space. When I went back to reading the book today, it all meant so much more and it made more sense. I had more context.

The reason I bring this up, is because it is similarly true regarding reading mathematics textbooks. If students are lead on a tour of the actual math, allowed to explore hand-on, or lead in exploring the patterns (perhaps even using CAS technology like TI-Nspire CAS), then when they are instructed to read, it will be more satisfying, fulfilling, and less frustrating.

Yes, we need to keep encouraging young people to read challenging material, but I know my students have a lot of homework in their other classes. If I expected them to understand the material thoroughly by reading before coming to class in addition to the problems I want them to do, I would have some overwhelmed students.

An idea for when we do want them to read ahead is to give them a goal, a focus. For example, say something like, "after doing the assigned reading tonight you should come to class with an understand of how to .... (or you should be able to)". With this direction, they might not get lost thinking they had to memorize and understand everything. They may actually allow themselves to enjoy some of the icing that comes with the cake that was assigned.

Food for thought, especially for fellow math teachers.

On another note: It sure is a privilege to have a copy of the Bible and to be able to read and study it. Deuteronomy 17:18-20 reminds me that for most of history, precious few had the opportunity to have a copy of Scripture for daily reading. Ezra set his heart to study the Bible, to do what it says and to teach others. An excellent illustration of the value of hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditation of the Word of God is the hand illustration.

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