Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Calculus on the Campsite

Math teachers see applications all over the place.
So I was talking to the guys a little about work and what I was going to be doing the rest of the week. I told them how I would be going to Dallas for a Teachers Teaching with Technology Leadership Conference.

Anyway I was looking at the tent of one of my brother-in-laws, when I saw a beautiful example of a calculus question that I had used the TI-Nspire to help students get a visual idea of what the question was asking. So I excitedly asked my camping buddies if they would let me take some pictures before they completely took down their tent. To promote education, they were all for it. They even ended up waiting until I got back from a morning hike with my oldest son.

What is the volume of this structure?
This is the shape that reminded me of a question I typed up that is similar to questions calculus students would see on their AP exam.
Question: Let the base of a solid be the first quadrant region enclosed by the x-axis and one arch of the graph y=sin(x). If all cross sections perpendicular to the x-axis are squares, then the volume of the solid is approximately
(A) 0.52 (B) 0.79 (C) 1.05 (D) 1.57 (E) 2.00

It took me less time to make the following Graph & Geometry page on the TI-Nspire CAS then it did to set up my tent.

You may enjoy another animation I put together around the Forth of July.

Update: I recently posted an example of an animation from a student graphing project on this blog. Another link with great video clips that will be of interest to math teachers is TI

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

guys go camping

Every year we have a family vacation with my wife's family. We had been to Brown County State Park in Southern Indiana several times. Two years ago God provided that we were able to spend a week at Clearwater Beach in Florida. Last year we were thankful for a time at Holiday World halfway between Louisville and Evansville. This amusement park is special in that they have free soft drinks throughout the park and free sun screen in the water park area.

This year the 12 female members of the extended family, plus the babies age 1 and under, had girl time. They saw the American Girl movie, shopped and had a sleep over.

The 13 guys (minus the 3 baby boys) went camping at Turkey Run, an Indiana State Park.

It was gorgeous weather for hiking, swimming, roasting marshmallows, and sleeping under the stars with a bright moon (protected from the bugs in our tent). My oldest son and I had been on adventures before, like seeing a Space Shuttle launch, kayaking with dolphins, etc, but we had never been camping.

We had some great times. It was just nice to hang out with family that we hadn't seen in some time, what with being gone for the month of June. Since my son is in a family of mostly ladies, he really loves times with his boy cousins. He was the youngest of all the little guys who went, but he did well keeping up and playing their games. I realized he actually hiked more miles than anyone else there (except myself, since I went with him).

He slept well that night.

He didn't even wake when my little nephew sleeping in the adjacent tent woke up in the middle of the night and started screaming (I didn't hear it either, but everyone else was telling the stories in the morning). He didn't wake up for the raccoon noises or what sounded like a gun shot that was possibly directed toward the raccoons (I heard that).

After hiking across bridges, through caves and crevices, over rocks and around mud, up ladders and down steps (up them too), do you know what he wanted to do the next morning before we left? Yep, go for another hike. That time we took a different trail, say a beautiful cliff, and he found another toad. This was a tiny little toad. You have to look pretty close to see it in his hand.

We had such a great time hiking that when we got back to Indianapolis on Tuesday, we took the young girls in the family hiking in some nearby woods. To hear more about the rest of the week that I wasn't there for check out Shine Again.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

When the mom works

A saying of King Lemuel: "A wife of noble character who can find?" By the grace of God, I have.
My wife is a wonderful and amazing woman. Besides being an outstanding writer/blogger, she does a great job in taking care of me and the kiddies. I re-met her after I had graduated from college. We actually went on a senior trip to Florida back with the high school church youth group I was new to. (Fun story my wife is great at telling.) Anyway, she had two more years to get her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and become an R.N.

During the school year she may work once a week - some Saturdays, but usually 4 or 6 hours one weekday evening. Most summers she works a lot more. I tell people she works as a nurse to support my teaching habit. I'm glad for her to keep up her skills. That nursing knowledge comes in handy around the house when you have 7 active little ones. I particularly value her assessment between "she'll be fine" and "he needs to go to the emergency room [at 2 a.m.]."

So what happens when mom goes to work? I am repeatedly reminded that I am not a good mom (which is reasonable, since I'm the dad). I notoriously forget a diaper bag that contains important items. I know, irregardless of how hard we try, there will still be some kind of housework that Monica will feel like she has to do when she gets home. Hum, I guess, often when I get home, I think of all the school work I still need to do. I wonder if this is similarly why Monica evaluates the housework status even after spending 12 hours at the hospital. I can totally understand those calculations that show that it is more expensive for mom to work outside of the house then to stay at home.

Alright, here is what we did today: kids played with back door neighbors, my parents came over, some of us went for a walk, we went to visit my 84 year old Grandpa Ahart who is in the same hospital where my wife works, stopped by to let everyone say hi to mom, went to the hardware store, got back home and fixed a facet, everyone did their chores, made pancakes for dinner. We even made enough for mom when she got home.

Grandpa is doing well. Monica got to visit him before his diabetes related surgery. The doctors took him from taking seven pills, down to two. They got his potassium levels fixed up. He said that he didn't know he wasn't feeling well, but that now he is 100% better. He looked great.

This little girl with a piglet pancake and a 'stuffed up' piglet is hilarious. For example see cow, fish and pig.

Friday, July 11, 2008

SMART Board & TI-Nspire CAS in the classroom

This week I've been teaching a group of impressive calculus teachers about using SMART Board and TI-Nspire CAS technology in the classroom. I have filled my room with digital projectors, SMART Boards, Airliners, Senteos, and a Sympodium.

We had the participants over for dinner at our house on Monday. We played math games like Set, Blokus, and Trigon Blokus. Equate, with the Advanced Tiles, was another math game option.

We also took a lunch time lap around the Indy 500 and enjoyed the final evening meal together downtown. By the end of the week they had prepared lessons or learning objects with TI-Nspire CAS and SMART Notebook 10. Perhaps when the Nspire's next update to their operating system comes out in a few weeks I'll tell you about the new features to improve teaching and learning mathematics and science.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July 4th Holiday Weekend

On the morning of July 4th, three Bird children and my parents did a 2.5 mile race.

It was a small race, and it was raining for the last half mile, but we had a great time. My dad & I actually tied for 1st. My two daughters who racewalked the event got 2nd and 3rd place. They will have a great time all the winning medals doing track and field events in the back yard.

We had my wife's family over that afternoon. The cookout and Indiana sweet corn was such a great time. I look forward to spending more time with my wife's family the week after the calculus and technology workshop I'm having at Covenant this next week. We'll be doing an extended family vacation on that Monday to Wednesday.

We also enjoyed apple pie - there is nothing more American than apple pie. Well, we also had Dutch apple pie.

Before feasting on our American food, we reflected on what the day was about. I asked our little ones and their cousins what we were celebrating: "What happened on July 4th?", "What year was that?", "Who were we seeking our independence from?"
My wife and I had been watching the dvd about John Adams. I greatly appreciate the Christian conviction of many of the founding fathers. John Adams said, “We recognize no sovereign but God, and no king but Jesus!”

We praised God for the freedom we have in Christ. John 8:32-36, Galatians 5:1

Our second oldest daughter who ran the race that morning couldn't stay awake long enough for the fireworks no matter how hard her sister tried to wake her. Wow, was she disappointed when she woke up. I comforted her with the knowledge that many people in the surrounding neighborhoods would shot more fireworks Saturday.

While my wife worked on Saturday, we had an extended reading time and I took my 7 little ones along with their two back-door neighbor friends to the library. Many 'Indy Adventures' summer reading program prizes were earned.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

TI-Nspire USA Flag

The TI-Nspire has some amazing capabilities for teaching and learning mathematics and science. I made the above by vertically translating a sinusoidal function. In other words, f1(x) is a sine curve and f2(x) and following are f1(x)+c, where c is an even positive or negative number until the 13 stripes were made. The animation was done by adding a slider. The x-value of the point on the slider was stored as d and assigned to the phase shift of the sine curve in f1(x), i.e. it became f1(x+d). This point was set in motion by right clicking to animate the point.

Happy Independence Day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

'Adventure Indy' Summer Reading Program

One of our family's favorite activities is reading. The Indianapolis Marion County Public Library encourages this with their Summer Reading Program. It was fun coming to the Wayne Branch after our month away. The friendly librarians said that they had missed us. One of the two ladies at the desk took special note of our one year old. We may have missed the month of June at the IMCPL, but this summer's Adventuras de Indy (as in Indiana Jones, but without the copyright infringement) will be enjoyed and fully taken advantage of by all seven Bird children.

Interestingly, yesterday we received Joseph's birthday gift that keeps coming. For joining Brickmaster LEGO Club we get 6 exclusive LEGO models. This month's toy was an Indiana Jones mini and a set that Joseph put together to become a Jeep-like car.
The Indiana Jones Mini Movie is humorous.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Garage

Back home again in Indiana...

This past school year I had a student who was quite the advocate of Coke Rewards. He had everyone giving him their bottle tops and he was getting some impressive merchandise. The item that caught my eye was a subscription to Popular Mechanics. A part of the reason Matt won Covenant's Senior Science Award was because of his keen interest, knowledge and communication of what was going on in the world of science and technology. His participation in Team America Rocketry Challenge, 4H rocketry, earning the rank of Eagle in Boy Scouts, and earning 5 on AP exams also helped in making the decision.

So I used some of the codes found in 12 pack, 24 packs, and bottle tops of Coke products to get a year's subscription of Popular Mechanics. When my oldest son, the inventor and dreamer, was looking through the most recent issue, he saw a picture of a garage that was cleaned out. He wanted to get our garage looking like that, so he got the help of others and had a go at it for a while. We made some improvement, but with around 9 bicycle type vehicles, the back row of a 15 passenger van, and other large items, it will still be a while before we will be able to park in there. But I'm happy to encourage progress. Goal: park more then just my bicycle in there this winter. Perhaps the garage can be another place for the kids to rollerblade besides the kitchen when it gets cold out.