Thursday, April 14, 2011

Creativity in Calculus

This year I gave my students an open-ended project.  Below is a video that a student submitted.  The project was entirely open-ended and when I assigned it I informed my students that it will be worth NO MARKS!  Here is what I got from one student.  (I will be uploading more but most are too large for YouTube). 

Three students completed a 17 min video, another student completed an amazing powerpoint video, while a third group integrated calculus into a the world of Harry Potter.  I truly was inspired when I witnessed the level of creativity and engagement completed by the students.

Was the motivation really from marks?  Can't be that, as there were no marks.  Maybe the motivation was from the chance to be autonomous and creative?  I did not force my students to complete the project on a specfic outcome, nor did I force the tool they were to use to illustrate the outcome.  All the task was "Show me something cool you have learned"

Here is the project that my department head created and I tweaked.

 Math 31/35  Multi-Media Project
To date you have covered several concepts within your math units.  You now have the opportunity to use your other talents to share your knowledge with others via a multi-media presentation!

What kind of presentation?
That’s up to you….Powerpoint…video tape an interview with an expert… videotape yourself teaching a concept…videotape a skit showing mathematical instruction… a website.. a math lab…an everyday application of a learned concept…the possibilities are unlimited.

Some questions you might want your presentation to answer:

  • “When am I ever going to use this math?” and/or
  • “How could I help other students better understand a concept?”
Your presentation could focus on a single concept or on an entire unit

Do I have to do this on my own?
You can if you want, but that’s up to you.  You can form a small group, I would suggest 3 or 4, but if you need more talk to me.  Your group members can be from this class, any Math 31/35 class, or friends outside of class that have a talent that could add to your presentation.

What do I get out of this?
You gain an increased understanding and appreciation for mathematics.  You would also be leaving a legacy behind here at the school, as I intend to use these projects to introduce and supplement unit material to future Math 31/35 students.

How do I get involved?
All you need to do is fill in the attached Project Proposal sheet and have all members of your group sign the release that allows me to use the material.  Then let the fun begin!

What if I start it, but don’t finish, or if there are problems with the group?
Keep me informed on your progress.  Whatever support or assistance you need I will try to provide.(ex.  Video camera, computer access, talking to group members, assisting with an expert to contact etc..)    Whatever you have accomplished by the due date I would like you to submit, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as you thought it would.  If you need an extension you must speak to me early regarding the reason for the request and then we will discuss it.

When is it due and how long does it have to be?
The Project Proposal sheet is due to me by Thursday, Febuary 11.
The presentation is to be submitted by Tuesday, April 14th or sooner.  
As for the length of the project, the only direction I can give you is that it needs to be long enough to answer the question that you have set out.


  1. Perhaps the student is actually more motivated by the math than appears? It may be more the fact that getting excited about math is not perceived as cool. I prefer that to the idea that students are just so trained to do what they told? Wonder what would happen if students were asked to do this before covering the concepts in class? Have you tried that in calculus before? Thanks for sharing!

  2. for clarification: I am Dave's Department Head and I did not create the project. The project Dave used-I don't see where he tweeked it- was created by a teacher from I believe Percy Page who kindly shared it with other teachers to use.

  3. Wow, that's a nice project. I may have to steal that asignment sheet. I'm curious what your release form looks like too. BTW, I am a YouTube partner, so I. An post videos of any length. If you like, I could make playlist for you on my YouTube channel. Let me know!
    A. Jorge Garcia
    Applied Math and CompSci

  4. This is an interesting coincidence Dave as I recently started a discussion of Creativity ....

    and what is known as "busy work". What I am finding as an important criteria in judging busy work in the context of teaching is to ask yourself "What did the student learn?" Your student's project brings up another important criteria, "How well did the student express what they already have already learned?" Don't get me wrong, I am not denouncing busy work, it has a place, but many teachers don't understand its relationship to learning and go astray. Creativity does not imply learning. Often it just implies creativity. You have to remember that the goal is learning and judge your use of creativity in that context.

    I think everyone here would agree that your student deserves an A, nice job.

  5. Sorry for typo above, my iPod Touch was not cooperating!

    What I was trying say was that I could make a playlist just for your projects on one of my YouTube channels if you like. You just have to figure out how to get them to me! I have uploaded screen-casts over 2 hours long, so I don't think I would have a problem uploading your videos!

    Good Job,
    A. Jorge Garcia

  6. Can you please post the release form you give to students? Or, can one email you for it?

    The project looks exciting. I would like to tweak it a small amount and use it for my students.

  7. Feel free to email me

  8. the idea is awesome. can also give some idea on our project proposal about calculus that can help students in their real life situation like in savings..