STEM Self Portrait: Days 5 & 6

Sarah and I have decided this whole project-based learning thing is, in fact, a good idea. Over the next few months, we want to reflect more publicly on our second project: the STEM Self-Portrait. We’ll post as much as possible and your feedback, suggestions, and ideas are welcome in the comments below.

(This is post 4 of the series. Here’s the PreambleDays 1 & 2, and Days 3 & 4.)

Days 5 & 6 were spend completing the Desmos Art Defenses assignment. Here it is again:

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The class time was completely devoted to completing the assignment and continuing work on their Desmos Art. Our slide for the last class before break:

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There’s an obvious mix of math and chem here, but both in support of the project. Here are some images of the systems of equations students were working on during class:


We’re using systems of non-linear equations to teach the Algebra they need to learn anyway. And, since it’s part of their own artwork, we’re finding the students are more invested in solving the problems. Yes – the assignment only has them solving three systems questions – but some students spent an hour or more on individual questions. Students often had to go back and resolve after making an arithmetic mistake. Their numbers were often in the hundreds of thousands or the millions. One student needed to learn properties of logs in order to solve her system. Instead of learning properties and then using them, they’re creating problems and then learning the necessary properties. Instead of learning about circles and ellipses out of context, they’re figuring out how to use conics because they need the shape in their art.

Here are some samples of student work. The first is a grade-level student (A-) and the second is an honors-level student (A). The first student actually solved a system where both equations were non-linear, something above even the honors level.

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The scores on the assignment ranged from incomplete to A work. Everyone has somewhere they can improve. Many will choose to revise and resubmit their work this week. Sarah and I will also be showing examples of good work to the class. Here’s one I enjoy – the student (grade-level) did very well explaining her functions in a fun way. She hasn’t done any of the systems yet, though, which was disappointing. It’s a work in progress.

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