Parametrics / Conics

As I have written before, we teach AP Calculus BC here as a second year Calculus course in our school. This gives me loads of time to play and explore with these students. On Monday we start up again – weather permitting – and we start with our study of parametric and polar equations. Our precalculus class does not cover either topic in great depth (a situation I hope that I can remedy starting next year) and a number of our BC kids are ones who start off in AB Calculus when they come to our school. With so many of our students coming from different parts of the world at different times in their career, we have a wide variety of experiences in the BC group. I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that I have to treat this material as if they have not encountered these ideas at all, really. I intend to spend two days in our computer lab working with building up some fluency with Desmos. I have my room set up in a sort of Harkness-style where the kids are facing each other. Being in the computer lab gives me the flexibility of having the students work with Desmos in a hands-on fashion rather than just watching me. That’s the plus. The downside is that they are working in isolation in this room. I’ll have to deal with that downside for a few days. So, I was digging through my memory bank and I remembered that the great Sam Shah had written a lovely post about introducing conics through Desmos. I downloaded his Scribd file and modified it a bit (you can see my version here) but I still need to go back and play with it a bit more. The way the file looks to me now is way too close to plagiarism – though I do give his website a nod of thanks there. I want the language and the feel to reflect my language and the way my students react.

I am making a real commitment to myself to get out of the way more in 2014. There was a lovely piece that was tweeted out by an old colleague named Gayle Allen. It was called ‘Becoming Invisible in My Classroom‘ and it has given me a renewed sense of mission here. I am also thinking of my visit to SLA last year for EduCon. I walked into a physics class and could not figure out who/where the teacher was for a few minutes. I was amazed and humbled. Need to hold on to that feeling…

So, I’ll start on Monday with a bit of leading/lecturing to set the stage. I’ll give them an assignment to play a bit with Desmos Monday night, then we hit the lab. I’ll be giving an update on how it goes. Wish me luck!

PS – I have a fun Desmos file to look at for them as well. You can see it here. It’s fun to animate the slide and see what happens.

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