Today in class I introduced my grade 10 math students to the three basic trig functions using the spaghetti activity. My version was much simpler than the link: three different groups each produced one of y = sin(x), y = cos(x), and y = tan(x) from 0≤x≤360 degrees, as quickly as they could, using spaghetti for lengths in the unit circle.
Usually I use dynamic software to allow kids to discover patterns, but today this time I thought a good old-fashioned physical hands-on activity would make a good change.
And it did.
The students only had 20 minutes to complete the task, in groups of 5 or 6. The time pressure meant that the students had to divide the work between themselves efficiently, and keep focus in order to complete the job.
Meanwhile I was taking photos, offering assistance, and calling out time reminders constantly. I noticed the time reminders kept a real sense of urgency and energy in the classroom. I was reminded of the Flipped Classroom extended session at the #learning2 conference in 2012. Session leader @jutecht gave us an activity, and was constantly reminding us how much time we had left. The sense of urgency meant nobody was off task, we were all working as quickly as possible to complete the task.
Obviously too much pressure is not ideal for a cognitively challenging task, but for something physical and mechanical – once each group had devised its strategy – time pressure works well.
This activity was followed up today by a “See Think Wonder” routine from the Harvard book “Making Thinking Visible”. My next post will document this thinking routine.