Rita’s swim – A WISE activity for high school math students

While attempting to edit the Amusement Park Challenge, I managed to find an activity inside that was hidden. It was an activity called Rita’s Swim. One modification I’d add to the Amusement Park Challenge is to activate Rita’s Swim, and make it part 2 of the Amusement Park Challenge activity.

The modified Amusement Park Challenge can be found here: http://wise.berkeley.edu/previewproject.html?projectId=20977

To summarize the activity, part 1, or the Amusement Park Challenge, requires the student to inquire about the tenets of safe/thrilling amusement park ride. The student will then have to construct distance vs. time graphs for either a safe/thrilling amusement park ride. The activity concludes with each student sharing their ride with other students. Rita’s swim activity is a similar investigation into the relationship between distance vs. time graph, and the actual physical movement of an object, however, this time, the graph accompanies a story describing Rita’s swim across a pool.

Although this activity is designed for elementary school students, it can be modified to give high school students a basic inquiry activity about slope and rates of change. The activity as currently constructed, would be an excellent inquiry activity to begin a lesson on rates of change – I would give students an opportunity to work through the lab, which should provide students an opportunity to apply what they know about the real world (their current understanding of speed, and rates of change) to graphs. As students progresses through the WISE activity through its two parts, students will gain an opportunity to reorganize their knowledge, and make corrections, as the bumper car and its movements would be visible to students after they have modified their graph. After working through the Amusement Park Challenge and Rita’s swim, students should have a fair well built understanding of the connection between speed, direction, and the graphs that represents change in each of these properties.  After the activity, I would then begin getting into the mathematical portion of the lesson. I would use the graphs to introduce the concept of a rate of a change, which in this case would be the slope of the curve that is formed. I would then introduce the formula for slope: m=y2-y1/x2-x1, and use the formula calculate the slope for different lines to show that the slope is representative of speed.

I believe my lesson takes a constructivist approach and  have followed the principles of SKI closely (Linn, 2004). 1) The students thinking about speed was made visible to them via the Amusement park/Rita’s Swim activity 2) The science behind speed and graphs was made accessible to students due to the guided nature of the WISE activity, 3) and social support was given to students as they were given an opportunity to share their thrill ride after the conclusion of part 1. Feedback would be provided by the WISE activity throughout, and during student discussions of the various created thrill rides.

  • Williams, M. Linn, M.C. Ammon, P. & Gearhart, M. (2004). Learning to teach inquiry science in a technology-based environment: A case study. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 13(2), 189-206. Available in Course Readings.

One comment

  1. HI Gary

    I like the fact that you found an elementary activity that could be used in high school. I think a lot of high school students like to reminisce of their elementary days.

    I wonder if developers would build in more hidden parts in the simulations — would this engage the students more?

    A good next step might be to find out what formula game developers use to keep their players engaged. And then use this formula for educational games.


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