Weatherford Living

Barbies, slinkies and CBRs...Oh my

Barbie Bungee
Barbie Bungee Photo courtesy

Algebra students filled the Aledo Middle School multipurpose center recently to experience some of the most basic of algebraic concepts in a hands-on fashion. The teaching team of Betsy Denny, Keely Hulme, Matti Kruse, Bob Barr and Kara Jordan won a teaching innovation grant from the Aledo Education Foundation which brings students out of the classroom, and offers multiple opportunities to work together to collect and analyze data. The goal was to broaden and deepen their knowledge of basic linear functions by experiencing them in several practical activities.

"As our world becomes more and more technological, education must constantly evolve in order to prepare students to be successful in an ever-changing world,” Denny said. “As a result, mathematics education has become more conceptual. It's no longer good enough for students to just know the answer; they must now understand the underlying concepts."

She said that students must be trained not just to compute, but to think and to process.

"Aledo ISD continues to allow students opportunities to engage in meaningful activities that will stimulate those thought processes. Barbies, Slinkys and CBRs...OH MY! is a 'toolbox' of supplies that allows students to experience and investigate basic algebraic concepts," Denny said.

The CBR motion sensor was used for data collection so students could collect and analyze real-world motion data, such as distance, velocity and acceleration. This application teaches algebra through calculus and statistics, physical science and physics.

Students were able to gain a better understanding of linear functions and apply that knowledge when analyzing real-world situations. They also were able to identify the slope and y-intercept of the data, and what that means in the context of the project.

"Algebra is the basic building block for high-school math,” Denny added. “The stronger the foundation that we build in eighth-grade math, the more successful our students will be in the future." She referenced Benjamin Franklin, who said, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."

"I believe that by providing students with the opportunity to gather their own data and then to analyze it to discover the algebraic representations involved, they will gain a better understanding of the concepts of linear functions. By learning these concepts in an active group setting, their retention of the concepts will be better," she said.