## Monday, December 6, 2010

### Application first, why second

To further show assessment, without the use of worksheets or homework checks, I gave an assignment called "Calculus in the real world".  Students were asked to design a real-life context problem where calculus could be used to solve.  I gave a week to complete.  As the deadline approached, a couple of students were complaining by informing me, "I know how to solve the questions you give us, but I just can't create my own".  After some discussion, I alleviated the stress and empowered them with the confidence that they needed; this a task they can complete.  One students gave me the following problem,

Oh no!  It’s Christmas Eve and I still haven’t wrapped my sister’s present!  There are no boxes left in the house, so I’ll have to improvise.  I spot a piece of cardboard that is 12 inches by 12 inches, so I can make my own box.  But, after I put my sister’s present in the box, I want to fill the rest with chocolate.  What dimensions will maximum the volume of the box that I can make from this piece of cardboard?  Also, what will this maximum volume be so that I can optimize the space for chocolate?

The student also provided me with the calculus solution:

After polling the most important stakeholders, my students, they felt that after creating a question, and solving it, they could further describe the importance of calculus in the real world.

In class, I had students pair up and exchange each other’s problems.    At the end of class, I asked for feedback and it was an overwhelming response of “Can we do that again?”

When students are given real applications of the concepts required by a course, they truly grasp the “WHY” part of education.  In my class, I no longer hear, “Why do I have to complete this?”, or “What is the point of this?”, however I do hear “I finally understand why we are learning this!”.  Give students the application, and they will learn the “why” on their own.