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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Conics Around Our School

We have just finished studying Conic Sections in Pure Math 30. At the start of the unit I informed my Gr.12 students that, for 1 bonus mark on their unit exam, they needed to use their cellphone or digital camera to take a picture of a real life example of a conic section. Many of the students took me up on this challenge, but I was kind of disappointed. The vast majority of the students brought me a picture of a circular object. While this an example of a conic section, I was hoping for ellipses, hyperbolas and parabolas.

So, on Thursday I decided to put the student to work and actually have them find examples of every conic section. At the start of Thursday's class I told my students we were going on a scavenger hunt. This got their attention!!! I informed them that they needed to use their cellphone to collect pictures of objects around the school. They needed to find a real life example of a circle, an ellipse, a parabola and a hyperbola. Immediately one student said, " Can we half a half an hour to do this?". I informed them they had 10 minutes to collect their pictures. So, off they went. They were like little kids in a candy shop. They were so excited!!!

In under 5 minutes, every student,(there were 20 of them) had collected their real life examples. It was really amazing to see how quickly they could find real life examples of conic sections around the school. I then asked the students to e-mail me their pictures from their cellphones. Here are some of the pictures my students sent me.

My students even explained to me that they took these 2 pictures above because they were examples of degenerate hyperbolas. Cool!!!

This little extension of Conic Sections was definitely worth the 10 minutes of class time that it took!!

Try sending your students on a scavenger hunt with their cellphone. You will be really pleased with what they find.

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