I had a great teaching day yesterday, trying out 2 new robotics lessons, both of which went great. Sixth graders figured out the velocity of their robots. Fourth graders designed and started to build burglar alarms.
I’ve told teachers about the velocity lesson but never tried it myself. This year, it happened that sixth grade was studying formulas, rations, and velocity. How much better to measure the velocity of a real thing instead of some word problems on a worksheet! The kids loved it and they were using math for something real. Some did have problem understanding the meaning of the numbers, which shows the weakness of math decoupled from anything tangible in their background. For example, some had trouble figuring out if more was faster in terms of a number when expressed in feet per second. Even the problems they encountered were rich in math. For example, some of the robots were not going completely straight so we made an arc using a 10 foot string so that the measurements were still accurate.
Fourth grade was really fun too. Though they needed some urging, they did brainstorm and hypothesize solutions to the problem before prototyping, which is part of the engineering design process I am teaching.
Not all first tries at lessons go so well so it was a very fun and rewarding day.