Things to try while teaching a week long summer boot camp…

So back in April, my mouth opened and this came out…

“Wouldn’t it be great to have a week of summer school of sorts to help kids get ready for
Algebra 2?  Sorta of an Algebra 1 Review – Algebra 2 Preview type thing.  I think it could really help all of our kids.  Thoughts? “

Well, of course, everyone thought it was a great idea and they especially thought it was a great idea since I was willing to do it.

So invitations went out and enrollments came in (not many but enough) and today was day #1.  We didn’t have many show up but we’re at it anyway.  Very lucky to be in a small division that is willing to fund and try anything we think will help kids.

Now, in the meantime I’ve dipped my hands into WAY too may pots – I tend to do that (that’s a subject for another post another day) – and I’m overwhelmed (yes, I know its summer.)  But, not wanting to ever waste an opportunity I’m jumping in with both feet.   The cool parts of this – I get to spend some time with students without the stress of grades etc. AND I get to try out some things I’ve been meaning to try and either haven’t been teaching that or seemed to run out of time.

So today it was Mr. Stadel’s 3-Act on Styrofoam Cups.  You can find it here.   (Side not2014-07-21_19-14-49e:  If you haven’t visited his Estimation 180 site you should go there immediately!  Its awesome!!  AND I get to work with him through EnCoMPASS – I’m so lucky!) I was working on tying this in with solving equations and connect it to arithmetic sequences that we talk about early on in Algebra 2.

The basic premise behind this 3-Act task is that students have to determine how many cups, stacked up, it will take to fill the inside of the door.  In case you’re not familiar with 3-Act lessons or tasks, they usually start with a video showing kids a scenario and leaving it open-ended so they ask their own question.  Then you can give them some information, they answer the question they had and the third act sums up the activity by showing them the answer (or an answer based on what they think the kids questions might be.)  Its very engaging for students and they really love that its “real-life” even if they don’t really have a reason to stack cups in a doorway.

Act 1:  

I presented the video to my kids and asked them “What do you want to know?”  I thought I’d immediately get – “How many cups would it take to reach to the top of the doorway?”  Nope…. I got “How many cups would it take to reach that line on the door?”  (there was a green line with a big 40 on it in the video on the door.)  Then I got – “How many cups would equal his height?”   Wasn’t surprised at that one… and it gave me an “in” to something else!  Love those moments.  I did have a small group so I might have gotten the one “I wanted” had I had a larger group.  Mine sat there and looked at me and I told them to keep thinking and they finally said – “OH, how many to the top of the door?”  So off we went.

Act 2:  

They needed more info and I gave them the images that Andrew shared on his page.  They completely missed that they had to do a conversion between inches and cm until I asked them to look carefully – “What do you notice?”  They struggled more than I thought they would with what to do with the height of the first cup.  One student just divided by the “lip” of the cup (amount added each time – was thrilled that they saw that) and had an answer that was too big.  Another student questioned why she didn’t use the height of the cup and this generated much discussion and lead to eventually writing down the height of 1 cup, 2 cups etc. (and a nice intro into arithmetic sequences for me!)  They were finally able to write a rule and get an answer!

Act 3:  

They anxiously awaited the video answer and they were thrilled when they found out that they had gotten the correct answer.  Made perfect sense to them to round down – a definite win!

Then came Act 4!  

Yes, an Act 4 – I mentioned that Mr. Stadel had another video stacking cups up to his height and they immediately wanted to know how tall he was.  I had mentioned that he was TALL!   I paused the video of the doorway cups and let them take a guess.  Now that they knew how many were in the doorway they guessed how many matched his height within 2 cups! So… we actually watched his last video for the “How many cups stack to Mr. Stadel’s height?” question so they could see how many cups.  They were super excited that their guess was so close but it still didn’t answer their question.  “We want to know how tall he is … in feet, not in cups!”  So … I said… figure it out!

Ok… Mr. Stadel – my kids think you are about 6’4″.  (But .. in our opinion the 142 cups don’t quite come to the top of your head.)  How close are we?  


Tomorrow we throw Barbie off a balcony!  FUN!!

1 comment

  1. Hi Lois,

    I’m looking forward to working with you at Encompass as well. Congratulations on the class, thanks for sharing this post, and sounds like a good time was had by all.

    Because of your post, I updated the lesson page to include the stack of cups to my height. Definitely a fun extension.

    Yes, I’m 6’4″. I noticed it looks like the cups don’t necessarily come to the top of my head, but that might be the camera angle since the camera is positioned slightly lower than the top of my head. Furthermore, I’m standing slightly in front of the stack so there’ s that to consider as well. You could segue into dilations if you need to.

    I hear questions about the green line as well. In case you’re still wondering, the green line is part of the number line I had going around my room in my old classroom. I just happened to stack the cups at 40 on the number line. They fit snugly into the corner.

    Keep up the great work! Have fun dropping Barbie. Let me know how it goes!


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