I’ve been stepping for awhile: My students’ initial attempts at Visual Literacy Application with matrices

 As I wrap up my thoughts and reflections on this course, which obviously have been centered around questioning, some frustrations, and what my next steps should be, I had to look back at one of my successful steps that I took, even before my new found technological knowledge to remind myself that I have been stepping for awhile :).

Last spring in my Precalculus class, we were approaching the end of Semester exam and beginning to start our cummulative review from the semester.  One of the topics that would be covered was Matrices.  The students had completed a Matrices unit the year before in Algebra 2 so already had the basic understanding of the concepts.  Seeing as I too, as a teacher, feel the spring fever that inevitably arises as we get into April and May, I was feeling an urge to mix it up and bring some excitement to our review.  Actually, I feel this way all of the time, as I’ve stated in earlier posts: that I want to find fun and engaging ways to present the math material in the classroom.  And, I’m the type of person that say, sometimes you just have to go out on a limb and try something, just to see how it works.  So, as I often did when I was feeling this way, I consulted my best friend and brilliant English teacher, Andrea , and we began to brainstorm about how we could make reviewing matrices FUN!  To make a long story short, the final idea that emerged was to create a 3 part project that would incorporate reviewing matrix operations, finding the determinant of a matrix and explaining how to solve a matrix equation using inverse matrices.  Boring you may say?  Maybe, BUT now when you’re 1).  using visual graphics to explain matrix operations, 2).  Writing a Limerick (yes, a poem) that creatively explains how to find the determinant of a matrix, and 3). creating a short story (a drama, romance, comedy, horror, action adventure, etc) that tells through the plot of the story, how to solve a matrix equation using inverse matrices.   Alas, I created this project for my Precalculus class to use as a Review of Matrices.

[Powerpoint including parts 1 & 2 embedded below (some parts are distorted as I had to upload into google Presentation from Microsoft pptx) and an example of part 3, the short story is also included.  I have also embedded the project guidelines under my reflections--Google doc includes parts 1 & 2 and part 3 is attached as a word doc].

My reflections:  The great thing about this project was that it forced the students to really understand the concepts in order to create each piece of the project.  It brought about some great discussions as students worked to find visual ways to represent the operations of matrices and creative ways to express finding the determinant using a limerick.  And lastly, that ideas that arose as they worked to create a short story that expressed how to solve a matrix equation were amazing (and hilarious).  Although many of them were a little reluctant at first as it challenged their “traditional” way of reviewing (and forced them to actually think), once they got rolling, almost all of the student bought in and got engaged and excited about the activity.  Additionally, the great thing for me was that I could immediately tell as they began to creat their project, which groups really had solid understanding of the concepts and which ones needed some assistance.  I could then interject and give some quick teaching points and redirection, and since they had to relate the concepts to the project topics by connecting a visual or a context (story or limerick) to the mathematical concept, the understanding really seemed to stick better in the students’ mind.  Obviously from the variety of creations seen in the powerpoint, a few groups still needed to guidance, but the overall success and understanding of matices that resulted from the project was pretty impressive.

Matrix Review Project Guidelines

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