To cope with my own angst during these extraordinary times, but also to help breathe life into remote learning, I’ve begun exploring using weekly “themes” for Algebra 2. For the sake of my own sanity, I’m haven’t been looking to tie the themes directly to my Algebra 2 curriculum. I’m not fighting that battle right now. Instead, the themes will be filled with lots of tangential math that is generally interesting and useful. I’m also aiming to give my kids more exposure to the cultural and social underpinnings of math. These interactions will be surface-level by design; casual glances that may or may not stir something deeper within my students. I’m OK with this. With no state-testing breathing down our necks, my only hope is to escape the vice grips of the Common Core a little bit. I simply want to add dimension to our class. Alternatives. And, who knows, maybe this work will spark something that lingers when we resume the regularly scheduled program.

So, each week, in addition to the scaled-back algebra 2 content, I plan on offering up videos and readings that elicit the theme for that week and then ask my kids to produce something. This past week, for example, the theme was *mathematical genius*. I had the students watch a clips about Terry Tao, Jaxon Cota, and Magnus Carlsen, while also read this blog post. I then had them write a short reflection on their noticings, wonderings, and any themes they saw. (I got this whole theme idea passively from Benjamin Dickman, who posted his weekly plans for his Problem Posing class. Of course, I stole his first theme and resources.)

There is around two months of school left and I’m going to figure out the themes as I go. I have been brainstorming, though, and I want to dump my early deas into this post. I’ve been reading *Mathematics for Human Flourishing* by Francis Su — which is stocked with inviting ideas. I may pull from these as time passes.

Here’s what I have so far for possible themes, some related resources, and possible student outputs. It’s messy and incomplete, so bear with me.

**Lying with Statistics**- Three ways to spot a bad statistic (Mona Chalabi): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwwanld4T1w
- How statistics can be misleading (Mark Liddell, TEDEd): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxYrzzy3cq8
- How to spot a misleading graph (Lea Gaslowitz, TEDEd): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E91bGT9BjYk
- How Easy it is to Lie with Stats (Zach Star): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVG2OQp6jEQ
- Possible student output: Find some data and create a representation of the data that would be misleading and provide analysis.

**Designing Data for Maximum Impact**- Mona Chalabi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5C5dV9XVKo&feature=emb_logo
- The idea that every graph is a story.
- Possible student output: Find a compelling graph from the media (or create one), give its background, describe how it tells its story.

**Math and the News**- Identify some math-themed news articles for students to read. Examples:
- Quadratic equations from NY Times (Kenneth Chang and : https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/05/science/quadratic-equations-algebra.html
- Stories vs. Statistics (John Allen Paulos): https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/24/stories-vs-statistics/#more-65003
- Washington Post Coronavirus Flatten the Curve Simulation (Harry Stevens): https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/

- Possible student output: Students choose one article and write a letter to the editor or Op-ed-style piece reacting to the article.

- Identify some math-themed news articles for students to read. Examples:
**Mathematicians Beyond White Dudes**- Spreadsheet of mathematicians: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1AOc7RHJr0TJQbjiyhuReFYjP3g-oN_ycRQISQuyPfSw/edit#gid=0
- Possible student output: Choose a mathematician and write a short profile

**Mathematical Doodling (Vi Hart)**- Have students watch selected clips from her YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Vihart
- Possible student output: Student create their own doodle and provide written commentary.

**Mathematical Play (games, etc.)**- Provide students with different math-themed games. Examples:
- Achi (played by Ashanti people of Ghana in West Africa): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achi_(game)
- Five Twists on Tic-Tac-Toe (Marilyn Burns): http://www.marilynburnsmathblog.com/five-twists-on-tic-tac-toe/

- Possible student output: Students choose a game, play it different people, provide commentary

- Provide students with different math-themed games. Examples:
**The Mathematics of Casino Games**- Math of Roulette: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYKcPL0N9QQ
- Blackjack expert explains how card counting works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_So72lFNIU
- Making a SMALL fortune with counting cards & roulette (Mathlogger): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytuHV2e4c4Q

**Mathematics and Gerrymandering**- Lots of stuff out there…

**Math Trails**- Overview of designing math trails (Ron Lancaster): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysWorsOoxrU
- Math Trail example #1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KZ8KOWHSWc
- Math Trail Example #2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZKp_iolito
- Math Trail Example #3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1_xCwAmo0M
- Possible student output: Think of a possible Math Trail around our school or your neighborhood and write about it

**Math and IQ Scores**- …

bp

Thank you for sharing! I hope to use some of these with my students!

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