Friday, 13 August 2010

F Question #5: The Comic

What is the most expensive comic ever?
Most went for a batman comic (this was recently after most of them had seen The Dark Knight...) and were surprised to hear it was Action Comics.

Guesses as to why?
"first one in colour?"
"first one with a lesbian kiss?" (I just love this kid.)
"last one hand-drawn?"
"Did it have a wombat in it with rainbow coloured poo?" (Err... No. Therapy required?)

Most kids hit on the idea that it was the first of something - M___ finally settled on first Superman comic.
How much?
We used a form on Google Docs for this one, and got kids to input a lowest bet and highest bet in a form.
No-one was anywhere near the $1,000,000 it went for. Seriously, not even close, and till i showed them the story a lot were unconvinced.

"How much did it cost when it came out?" ($0.10)
"When did it come out"? (Wikipedia tells us 1938)
"Yeah, but how much would that be now?" (Great question, we took a few guesses - all were too high, mine included. Went on DollarTimes which told us it'd be about $1.50)

So if i'd bought it in like 1938 ... "
(This devolved into a spirited debate about the possibilities of this: "you weren't born then..." "you'd need to have a time machine" "if he had a time machine he could just go get it now.." "my time machine broke down next week" - this made me chuckle for a while. I have stolen this gag, and passed it off as my own since!)
"Yeah, but what if i'd bought it now...How much money would i have made?" (We worked out he'd get 666,666 x his investment. We had a bit of a conversation trying to work out how much first gen IPods etc would be worth given the same inflation.)

Three days later i had kids in my room at lunch time looking for comics just about to start a run so they could buy first editions and make a billion pounds.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

F Question #4: Sulphur

What happens when you inhale Sulphur Hexafluoride?

"you die?"
"it gives you rainbow coloured poo"
"does it make you high?"
"it makes you all squeaky"


What did the class do with this?
"Show it again! Show it again!" (We did. We laughed again. We did impressions. Our throats hurt.)
"Is that what they use to disguise people's voices on Crimewatch?"! (I think this was genuine...)
"So what would a balloon filled with that do?" (Class response was split here: some said it would just sit on the ground, a couple said that it wouldn't even inflate. I assume the first group were right, but not sure - any ideas?)
"Would anything denser than air do that? Like, if it was ten times denser would your voice be really deep?" (I do not know. We thought it might be dangerous though...)
"What does dense mean?" followed by "how dense is air?" (Speaking to our science faculty, about 20 kids hassled them over the next 2 days asking if they had anything denser than air that they could inhale as an experiment...)
After explaining that density more or less mean how tightly packed things are, mass per volume etc, one kid dropped the hammer with
"so, is hot air less dense than cold air?"
followed by another kid "yeah, that's why hot air balloons fly!"
Is it weird that i had never actually considered that hot air is less dense than cold air? Everyday is a learning day and all that...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Longest Shot

The plan:
show this spectacular Basketball shot:

Then show this one.

Argue, take bets about which one is longest.

Drop some data on when requested (hopefully people will instantly say that the 2nd one is farthest as it has a longer horizontal distance).

I'm planning here to do a couple of scale drawings so we can measure to see which one is the longest before dropping the pythagoras hammer.

What is delicious here is that in the youtube description for the first video, they have actually done the pythagorean calculation - so i can show that as confirmation.

The great thing about the description here is that it takes into account the inaccurate nature of their measurements leads naturally into some work on estimates and boundaries - i've chosen 160 feet as the horizontal distance for the first shot - if i'd chosen 150 feet (the lower bound) would it still be farther?

Got kids to send me their favourite goals from Pro Evolution Soccer 2009, took screen grabs of these, turned em into a worksheet, asked the simple question - whose was the best shot?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Outlying Abed

I'm in love with "Community". Few shows have made me laugh as loud as this all year - if you could drop Ron Swanson & Tom Haverford into it, it might be the perfect comedy.

Watching the 4th episode, then, thrilled me as it gave me an excuse to roll this baby out in class - We we're looking at data handling, so were all over averages and charts.

We watched this, and asked the kids for some interpretation.

I paused this at the point where Troy slides out (heartbroken that there is no butt stuff...) and asked the kids if they agreed with the professor's statement "the longer they take, the harder they break" - most disagreed and said Chang's initial flip out was way more than some of the others.

I'd made up some data from the study about when they break (Name,Minutes to Flip, Force Of Flip - ranging from Snr Chang to Troy), so I then asked the class to analyse it. Some drew nice bar charts, some found what the range of times was, some found the mean/median time. (This in itself was interesting for me to see what kind of analysis they performed.

Then we hit play and saw Abed ruin the study. I asked them now to add him into their analysis. The guys with the bar charts went nuts, cos he flew way off the top of their scale. The guys who'd found a mean naturally ended up with a way higher value. The guys with the median basically didn't notice much change.

We drew conclusions (My favourite being "don't find the mean if you've got weirdos")

The line at the end ("He's ruined my study...") brought the most interesting discussion.
This time last year, we had an almighty bust up when discussing correlations when G___ suggested that taller people weighed more. Of course, one of our guys said "no i know a really big guy who's well skinny.." "I know a dead short fat dude..." and they suggested that this proved G___ wrong.
So one of the guys involved in that immediately piped up with "That last dude is an outlier!" (I wish i'd had the next 10 seconds of footage, where the professor starts screaming "you've ruined it you stupid outlying piece of data.." to give him validation from Hollywood rather than just from little old me...).

This was good, but didn't kill like i'd wanted it to. Any thoughts on fixing this?

Thursday, 5 August 2010

F Question #3: Election Draw

How was an election settled when the votes were tied last year in Arizona?

What did the class do with this?
Before the answer:
"A wrestle"
"Yeah, both the [candidates] got a spear and a leotard..."
"Did Simon Cowell decide?"
"did they ask the guys who didn't vote for either to pick their favourite?"

Post Answer:
"Who shuffled? Cos you can rig a deck..." (interesting point about fairness. I told them that a judge shuffled!)
"What cards did they get?" (I had no idea. We ran a simulation with G__ getting 3H and demanding a do-over cos he was sure he'd lose. He did.)
"Was the Ace high or low?" (Again, i'd no idea, but the class were adamant that it should be low.)
"I was playing a game and cut cards once and got the rules of bridge..." (not sure what to do with this, but it made me smile)
"Surely they did best out of 5 or something. You can't leave an election to chance" (Irony dripping off D___'s every syllable here. Immense. I did steal this and ask what the odds of winning were if you lost the first 2 draws. Answers ranged from 0 to 50-50)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

F Question #2: Millionaire

What month are most Millionaire's born in?


What did the class do with this?
"Oh my god I'm gonna be a millionaire!" (J__, realising he was born in September)
"Why?" (opened to the class. they reckoned it was cos you'd be the oldest in your year at school, so you'd be bigger and more confident. Liked this very much.)
Following on the previous: "So are there like none born in July then?" (sadly i did not have this data, but a great follow up question.)
"What will I spend my first million on?" (J__ again)
"Yeah, but how many is most? Cos if there's like 10 a month, and September has 11, that doesn't really mean anything does it?" (Magnificent question. Wish I'd thought of it. A quick bit of research tells us that Forbes reckons 42/380 millionaire are born in Sept. A few wanted this turned into a percentage - 11%, a couple found that there were only 30 per month for the remaining 11. Nice.)
"Is a millionaire the same everywhere? Cos I read that in Zimbabwe you're a millionaire if you have 20p" (I called this rubbish, but with the hyperinflation over there 20p was worth more than a million Zimbabwean dollars)
"Awesome I'm going to Zimbabwe with a fiver I'll come back and be rich!" (oh if only life were this simple...)
"I might buy you a new car sir, cos yours is rubbish" (The benevolent J_ again)


One aspect of my teaching that I have embraced to the point of psychosis this last couple of years is finding ways to bring bizarre, weird, interesting and unusual things from our world into my classroom. I recently read a quote via the soft skills conference about creating a positive classroom atmosphere that said "The biggest thing is that I find ways to give kids space to be weird".

Couldn't agree more. What started as a random idea or two occasionally dropped into lessons has become an insane, unquenchable thirst for ridiculous amounts of trivia. Basically, every lesson question f on the starter tends to be something not at all tied to maths. The kids are encouraged to bring a mathematical understanding to it, but they are not required to. This is aimed at a 5 minute class discussion that can go basically where the students want it to.
(It has in no way affected our ability to cover the scheme of work...)

So I'm going to spend some time this month sharing a couple of "f questions" that my kids have used this year.

F Question#1: The McFarthest Spot
f) What, in the USA, is the McFarthest Spot?

South Dakota.
(the place furthest from a McDonalds)
If you live in America's lower 48 states, you are never more than 145 miles from a McDs by car.

(There is a great counter to this in a map showing the distribution of McDs in Australia)

So. What did the class do with this?
"what's it like in England sir?" (I did not know. This is good, they seem to believe i know everything... I remind them several times that i am not smarter than them, just more experienced. They guesed somewhere in Devon from looking at a map would be the farthest)
"Mr G___ said that the cost of a big mac tells you how poor a country is..." (apparently this is true, and the big mac index was something i learned about that day)
"Once i went to McDonalds and ordered a chicken tikka masala just to mess with them" (this kid rocks. When asked what he did when they told him that they didn't serve CTM, he said he looked, debated for about 2 minutes, then asked for a Chicken Bhuna. Legend.)
"so how far is it then?" (this confused me, and i was about to do that teacher thing where you can't think of anything to do but repeat what you had previously said but slightly slower and louder... Until another kid pointed out that he meant in terms of time.)
"Is that further than from here to london?" (Google maps tells us that it is not, but it is not much less. This brought genuine 'oohs' from the class, who can't imagine being a capital city apart from the golden arches)

Something maths brought in (but only when the kids asked for it - i guess in some ways this would be WCYDWT-lite) but a positive start to the lesson which made me laugh at least twice.