A blog about teaching and learning in a maths classroom.

Theatrical Aspect Ratio

Wednesday, 14 January 2009 | 0 Comments

Recently Dan Meyer posted his thoughts on the ideal maths textbook, which would actually be a digital archive of very interesting mathematical media.  This is a great idea, and whilst I don’t have a projector in my classroom yet (although fingers-crossed), it would be something that I would buy/subscribe to.  Anyway, there was a challenge in this for me: being mindful of the media I consume and the world around me to collect digital bits and pieces that might help explain a mathematical concept (I commented on Dan’s blog that I missed the opportunity to take a picture of 3m³ of dirt I had delivered).  The second, to my mind harder, challenge is to take that item and make a meaningful and engaging connection with a concept being taught in class.

Now, that doesn’t mean seeing a circle painted on a footpath and thinking “oh oh oh… let’s find the area of that” cause people don’t do that sort thing.  But rather, how does a knowledge of mathematics help my understanding of what I’m looking at or how is it intriguing.  How did someone else use this observation to discover something fantastic?

Lego Bricks

Image source: Lego bricks

Students, come in to high school sceptical about mathematics having any relevance to their lives.  You can understand why, they’ve been taught (and will continue to be taught in high school) the Lego bricks of Mathematics and some of them may never have the opportunity in mathematical study to put these bricks together to build a Lego car.  What is an engaging “real-life” way of illustrating the practical use of 2x + 3x = 5x?

When you do use that example or photo that connects with what you’re talking about, that lesson sparkles.  This year, I’ll try to post some of those engaging connections I’ve used so far.

For now, what could you do with this? 37signals: Theatrical Aspect Ratio — this post links to a site that visualises the different aspect ratios of movies and shows how that effects viewing using a normal television or a widescreen television.  At the moment I’ve filed it away in my Delicious bookmarks with a tag of “lessonidea” ready to be thought about on another day.  But if you have any ideas, feel free to comment.

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Simon Job — eleventh year of teaching maths in a public high school in Western Sydney, Australia.
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