Monday, April 9, 2012

Crew Review: Loooking at Lines from AIMS Foundation

Ben has been faithfully and systematically working through a pre-algebra course and doing well.  I'm so happy because math is the one subject that has consistently evoked tears from him or me.  Our new math is tear-free. Praise God!

Despite no-more-tears and good grades, math is still not one of Ben's favorite subjects. He struggles a bit with the age- old question, "What's the point of learning this stuff, anyway?"

I think this is where AIMS Education Foundation comes in:

The AIMS Education Foundation is a research and development organization dedicated to the improvement of the teaching and learning of mathematics and science through a meaningful integrated approach.

For this review, I was sent  Looking at Lines book with CD ($24.95; also available as a PDF for the same price).  The CD was handy to be able to print out the student pages for each of the 32 lessons/ activities.

 This book contains 32 activities to help kids in grades 6 through 9 begin to think algebraically:

[This book] Introduce[s] algebraic concepts in their natural setting with activities drawn from real-world phenomena. Covers three sub-groups of linear functions: proportional relationships, non-proportional relationships with positive slopes, and non-proportional relationships with negative slopes.

It's been a LONG time since I was confronted with functions and graphing equations, so I'm grateful for the step-by-step program this book offers.  And (I'll be honest) much of what is said in the preceding paragraph sounds like Charlie Brown's school teacher: "Bwah, bwah, bwah, bwah, bawha..." But as we worked through several of the activites, those long dormant advanced alegbraic concepts sort-a kinda started to make sense.
OK, so the basic idea behind this book is to see that "real-world situations can be modeled by linear functions."  Take, for example, the elevator:

 Using this picture, Ben and I gathered x and y data: when the elevator car (x) is at 1, the counterweight (y) is at 6.  We figured out the values of x and y for each floor and the basement. and made a table similar to this:

x | y
0, 7
1, 6
2, 5
3, 4
4, 3
5, 2
6, 1

After we did this, Ben needed to analyze the variable pairs and see the relationship:  x+y=7.  Pretty cool, he thought to himself.

Then, we talked about what the relationship would be with a 10 story building:  x+y=11.  "How 'bout a 20-story building, Ben?"


"What if our building was n stories tall?"

And he got it!  n+1=x+y

After this, he got to draw a graph, which is something he'd not used to doing.  He loves graph paper, and finally got to use it for its main purpose!

We had a fantastic talk about how algebra problems can be turned into graphs.  {Lightbulbs were turning on, here, people.}  I told him "fun" {as fun as math can be} stories of my high school experiences with algebra 4 in high school {which is when we learned about all this stuff}.  We even talked about how all those cool computer animated graphics could be turn into algebra problems {remember making parabolic graphs from equations?  Anyone? Beuhler?}.  We even talked about what a graph would look like with three variables:  x, y, and z.  Ben was actually excited to understand that that would be a 3D graph!

Ben and I enjoyed doing several of the activities -- about one a week.  It was a great supplement for where we are in pre-algebra, because I think it is vision-casting for him:  he's getting a glimpse of the Big Picture of Math.  Each of the activities we completed were finished in approximately 1 hour.  This is a bit longer than a usual math lesson for us, but it certainly is do-able.  As you get further into the book, there are some mini-science experiments that are the basis for collecting the data and then analyzing and graphing the results.  This will be SO cool to do (and I know Ben will look forward to this) -- when we have a little extra time.

From my perspective, I thought the book provided enough support and instructions for me to carry out all of the projects.  However, if Ben ever decides to ask a bunch of questions, I might be in over my head!  I thought the book generally assumed a minimum level of competence with the vocabulary of advanced math.  I'm sure I'll get to a point where all these terms makes sense again -- we're just not quite there yet in my re-education.

I really, really love having this book and think that it will be a great resource to use over the next couple years as a supplement to our math program.  To see what others thought of Looking at Lines or the other AIMS science and math resources, please click on the banner below:


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Review Crew, I received the above product in exchange for my honest opinion about it. For better or worse, all these thoughts are my own!

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