Sunday, August 5, 2018

#MTBoSBlaugust Day 4: Graphing Calculator Bootcamp & DIY Breakout Boxes

"No Calculator"

We all know that these 2 words, in combination, can cause pure terror in some students. Our kiddos have developed a dependency on technology in many arenas of life and math class is definitely one of them. Graphing calculators are a powerful tool, but I find when most students walk through my door in September they are using them for one thing and one thing alone- arithmetic.

One of my first tasks with my students in upper level classes (Pre-Calc, Calculus, AP Calculus) is to test their fluency in using their graphing calculator for more than just arithmetic. While other tools like Desmos provide much better worlds to explore mathematics, the reality is they will need to use their handy dandy TI's when we get to the exam. I want to be able to both pre-assess what they already know and help remind them of skills on which they might be rusty. In the past, I've used this:

I decided to take it to a new level this year, so I am turning it into a "Breakout" activity a la Breakout EDU or an "Escape the Room" at your local mall.

I started by building "Break Out" kits. Each one contains:

  • A Toolbox
  • A Bike Lock (Numerals)
  • A Combo Lock
  • 2 Padlocks
  • A small plastic container (tupperware-ish)
  • A fabric sunglass case
  • A laundry bag

Here are the containers that can be locked:

And here are the locks: 

That makes 4 different types of locks and 4 different things that can be locked. Total, these cost me $42 at my local Dollar Tree, but they can reused for any course and topic and my husband can steal them for his Chemistry classroom too. I thought it was worth the investment and still way cheaper than the name brand one that Breakout EDU sells.

My plan is to adapt the "Bootcamp" to be a set of clues and problems whose answers make up the numbers in the 2 number-dependent locks. Then, the padlock keys will need to be accessed by solving other problems. It won't add a ton more time to the Bootcamp activity, but should considerably up the engagement and competitive nature. I'm still in the process of writing it, since each lock has a different code and each box needs to be personalized, but this is a start! Everything is organized in a spreadsheet & color coded with colored stickers so it can be tracked and put back easily. I'll share more when I have the final activity finished and when it's implemented, but I'm excited to try this out, especially with my non-AP Calc kids!