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And the Winners Are...

In this season of Golden Globes and Oscars, it is natural to think about the movies we’ve seen in the past year and to create our own ranking of what should win the prize for being the best. But why not turn that reflection to my own AP Precalculus class and the activities we’ve done over the past semester? When I first decided to transition my traditional precalculus course to the new AP Precalculus, I knew that I would need a set of resources that would encourage good communication and deep thinking. Naturally, the new Calc Medic lessons were my first choice since I had been using the EFFL approach in my AP Calculus classes already. But what really engaged my students were the review activities that are embedded within the curriculum. These activities are so powerful that even if you are not using the lessons themselves, students will benefit from the connections these activities promote. And they’re fun! So I asked my students which of these activities they would rank in their Top 5. Here is what they said…


5th Place: CRACK THE CODE (Unit 2 Day 16)


This activity took place at the end of our study of polynomial and rational functions. Each team analyzed ten statements about a given graph or equation and determined whether the statement was true or false. The number of true statements was the first digit of the code. This process was repeated 3 more times until a four-digit code was in place which the team would then post on the board, hoping that I would say “yes”! However, if I said “no”, they hurried back to their desks to try to figure out what was wrong. The energy in the room was unbelievable and the conversations were even better! [NOTE: Crack the Code appears again in Unit 8!]


4th Place: SPEED DATING (Unit 2 Day 3)


When I announced that we were going to do a speed dating activity in math, some students said, “We’re going to do WHAT?” I assured them that all would be well and asked them to line up desks facing each other in a long row. The students chose their seats and I set a timer for 3 minutes. For the first round the students on the left described the graph of the polynomial on the card I had given them, and their partner tried to write the equation for what they heard. After 3 minutes, the answers were revealed. Then we repeated the process with the students on the right describing an equation that was on their card so that their partner could try to graph it. After that round, the rows all shifted so each person had a new “date” and we repeated the process. The students were engaged, laughing, and cementing their new knowledge of polynomial graphs. It was a win!


3rd Place: FUNCTION FLURRY (Unit 4 Day 5)


This activity is a great choice when you have limited time. The students were again grouped randomly and were given a graph that contained 5 functions (two linear, three exponential) whose equations had letters in place of their constants/coefficients. The students used their knowledge to answer 6 questions about the functions, ultimately finding the values of the constants and comparing various function values to each other. Each time they answered a question, they called me over to determine if they were correct or not. If not, they all got back to work to think about where their error might be. The team that answered all 6 of the questions correctly first was the winner, but the rest of the teams kept working until they all had the answers!


2nd Place: CASTLE ATTACK (Unit 1 Day 4)


This was such a fun activity and since it was in the early part of the year, it really set the stage for group events like this in the future. Each team drew a castle on the whiteboard and were given 3 “lives” (round magnets). I placed a pile of questions on a table and the groups raced to grab a problem, solve it, and ask me if their solution was correct. If it was, they were able to take two lives from one other team or one life from two different teams. The room was a buzz of activity as students raced to get the questions and then take the lives from the others. While they were busy conquering the castles, they were also conquering their skill in describing functions. They loved it! [NOTE: Castle Attack will appear again in Unit 6!]


And the winner is…


1st Place: SCAVENGER HUNT (Unit 2 Day 14)


This activity actually got my students not only out of their desks but out of the classroom! We went into the hall where I placed the 11 problems on the lockers. Students paired up and chose a problem to work on first. Their answer led them to the next problem where they would answer another question about polynomials or rational functions. As they solved, they kept track of the letters assigned to each solution so that when they finished, they could check with me to see if they were correct or not. At the end of the hour, the groups compared how far they got in the competition and which questions were most challenging. I couldn’t imagine a better way to get ready for a test!



So, there you have it…my students’ Top 5 Most Fun Activities that Calc Medic has shared with us. Whether you use the EFFL lessons or not, I can assure you that your students will love these activities as much as mine do, and the level of mathematical communication that will result will surprise you. Best of all, they will make connections with their learning (and with each other) that will stay with them for a long time to come. Why not incorporate one into your lesson plans this week?



In case you’re wondering…


The top 5 activities in this blog were the ones chosen by my students as their favorites. However, before asking for their opinions, I decided to make my own ranking of the activities we’ve done this year (see below). Although the order is a bit different, I was surprised that we agree on 4 out of 5!


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