How many times do we - as math teachers - have students bringing their friends to the classroom between classes, after school, or at lunch just to show them a project they're working on? How many times a year do we have students ASK if they can come in at lunch to work? Maybe in art class, maybe a photography class.... but math? Hardly ever! Last year, I had students doing just that: asking to come in and work on their own time and bringing their friends in to show them their work. AWESOME! The project occurred over a three day period (we worked on it for about 30 minutes each day - rough draft and then final) and it was one of the best investments of time I made; the outcome was amazing!
Direct Variation functions seem to throw my 8th graders for a loop every year. The easy part is recognizing equations in the y=kx form or even the y/x=k form; but in the past, for some reason, every time they saw something like y=x/4 on a test and were asked to identify the type of function in was, they thought it was a direct variation - just because it was a fraction. I know they could stop a minute and reason through the equation and realize that it wasn't, but you know eighth graders! :) I wanted to come up with something that would allow my students to explicitly think about equations that "fool" them into thinking they are something they aren't. Who else often does that? Criminals! And so...
I had my students create wanted posters for direct variation. I started out by showing them different wanted posters (they liked this!) and we talked about the different things that needed to be on a wanted poster for it to be effective. I then set them loose. And they had a blast! I've inserted some pictures below so that you can see some of the final products they came up with. There's a range of posters from my low-level kids up through the ones functioning at a much higher level. I like the fact that you can see - fairly quickly - what each student understands about the function and what misconceptions they might have.
Each day, we worked on some fairly focused practice, both in the warm-up and in the practice activities, and then we spent the rest of the period working on our posters. It was fun to walk around, chat with my students, ask them some leading questions when they were stuck, and help streamline their ideas, when necessary.
- I was surprised that many students weren't sure what "alias" meant. We spent some time talking about that, both during the powerpoint showing different wanted posters and, again, as I walked around the room while they were working.
- We needed to spend some time talking about the terms "disguises" and "m.o". Some of my students LOVED the phrase modus operandi and used that term on their posters.
- My low-level kids needed a little extra support in the writing phase, but - for the most part - they excelled in the illustration part of the project. :)
It doesn't matter how fun a project is if it doesn't produce the results you're looking for. I waited six weeks after we did the posters (so I could test for long-term learning vs short-term "remembering") and then I gave my students an assessment to see if they were still struggling with recognizing direct variations. The results were amazing - less than 6% of my students showed any indication of needing any reteaching at all! I think that makes this project worthy of another visit next year!