Friday, July 30, 2010

Physics First - STEM

This next school year we will be officially starting Physics First. Freshmen will take physics, the foundational science, before they take chemistry and biology. I pray that God will use me to challenge these young students to think Biblically about all their studies. I appreciate the writings of John Byl in my efforts to do this.
Working with freshmen will be different than teaching upperclassman who perhaps have a higher maturity level. I will have high behavior expectation of these students just like they do at the Johnson Space Center (see the poster to the left).

Also I'm excited to see if this can positively impact PSAT scores. Freshmen who are taking geometry may be able to keep some of their algebra skills fresh because of various activities in my class. We will be using the TI-Nspire in class most every day for data collection, explorations, and formative assessment. We have a classroom set of TI-Nspire CAS so that even if students don't have an Nspire yet, they will be ready to participate. I think we'll even use our TI-Nspire Navigator to ask 'class opener' questions from PSAT practice and Indiana's Algebra End-of-Course Assessment (ECA) sampler.

Those students who are concurrently enrolled in algebra should find their education in one class complimented by the other. I know in my undergrad studies I frequently enjoyed learning and applying similar topics in both my mathematics and physics classes. Students who took algebra in 8th grade should find their study in physics to help them keep the algebra skills stronger than if they were doing a science that was more focused on memorization and less on data collection and solving relationships for the unknown. There are also some great NASA activities that I've been working with this summer that I will use in class this next year, including Exploring Space through Math and NASA's Math and Science @ Work for the AP level.

There is a real need for young people to take science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses. For example, a 2009 press release reports that “the current graduation rate from U.S. university electric power engineering programs is not sufficient to meet our nation’s current and future needs.” It goes on to say, "The bad news is that enrollment in electric power and engineering programs are not rising fast enough, and interest in science, math and technology is low in K-12 students. Enrollments are declining in electrical engineering in general. Among students, teachers, guidance counselors and parents, engineering is ranked low on the list of interesting and attainable professions. Furthermore, women are especially underrepresented in the industry and as students."

The following facts were listed at the start of a STEM video found here.
Additionally, recently I came across an article about the top 6 degrees ranked in terms of employment, by Chris Kyle. "Corporate consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas polled 100 human resource professionals to find out what graduating students this year can expect from the job market in 2010, and, specifically, which degrees have the best odds of helping students get jobs....
#5 - Engineering Degree

It might surprise you to learn that engineering degrees are ranked fifth in terms of employment - and not first - but don't start feeling sorry for engineers just yet. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, eight of the top 10 best-paid majors are in engineering.

Desirable Degrees:
Biomedical Engineering
Civil Engineering
Electrical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Network Engineering and Administration
Programming and Software Engineering

Average Starting Salaries:
Petroleum Engineering: $86,220
Computer Engineering: $60,879
Mechanical Engineering: $58,392"

Of course, the real reason you pursue something isn't for the pay (note: I am a teacher), but because you have a passion for it, because you enjoy it, yea, because you recognize God has given you a talent with it. I recently heard a NASA engineer say, "Most jobs in engineering have higher pay but none are as cool as my job."

Even if you have a gift or talent with something, that doesn't mean it will be the easy for you to do that job all the time. Gifted musicians must practice hard and long. This is true of mathematicians, scientists, teachers, etc. For more about ability and 'talents' read this.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Under God the People Rule"

This is the official state motto of South Dakota. I came across this as I was looking at the map as we crossed the state on our travels back from an amazing vacation in Wyoming. I was reminded of the Godly dominion spoken of in Genesis 1:28 and Psalm 8:6. Also the motto "Under God the people rule" testifies to His sovereign rule (see Proverbs 21:1, Psalm 96:9Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! 10Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns!"). There are other states with motto's that reflect our dependence and trust in God. Florida's official motto is the same as the United States motto, "In God We Trust." It was on their state seal since 1868, but it wasn't until July 1, 2006 that it became their official motto. I really like the license plate option we have in Indiana, it is also nice to know that it is constitutional. Ohio's motto "With God All Things are Possible" was, of course, challenged by the ACLU in 1997, but Ohio's motto was shown not to violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

The reason we journeyed up to South Dakota was to see the National Parks. I had never been to Mount Rushmore. Aw we were driving there we saw a dark rock. I wondered how they got the name Black Hills. We learned it had nothing to do with the color of this rock, but because of how dark the hills can look with the rich ponderosa pines. Especially when a cloud would come, I clearly understood why they were the Black Hills. We got there just in time for the last park ranger walk of the day. The sun was getting low as the kids worked on the Junior Ranger workbook.

It was a beautiful site, a monument to democracy (that was one of the answers we had a hard time finding in the workbook). Around 9 o'clock they started a lighting ceremony. We soon discovered that they wouldn't turn the lights on until the end of the hour long ceremony. We hadn't reserved a hotel room for the night and we had already been driving all day, so we hit the road before illumination.

Before we left we learned about some great mathematics involved in the construction of Mount Rushmore. They made a model with the scale ratio of 1:12. One foot on the scale model corresponded to 12 feet on the mountain, or as the picture below indicates, 1 inch = 1 foot. This reminds me of an activity I have my students do when they are learning about vectors and, depending on the spring scale they use, 1 newton is set to equal 1 centimeter. Scale comes up in many math classes as well. Similar triangles is taught in geometry and the last year I worked on a cool activity to help students explore a topic in the Prentice Hall Algebra 1 text.
The monument was made using protractors, plumb bob, distance measuring devices (and some explosives). To read more about the mathematical details of Rushmore, check out this site.
Do you get the irony/humor in the picture on the right? ... "Math Rocks!" ... Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln are rocks. I read that 90% of Americans can't name the faces on Rushmore. After my kids had the interview with a ranger at the end of searching all the exhibits to find answers for the Junior Ranger workbook, I'm certain they will remember which president is which for quite some time.

We have learned so much by doing the Junior Ranger Programs all over the country, including FL, KY, MO, IN, DC, and now SD. Here is a picture of adventures in the past.