Project Based Learning

Our classes for the Fall 2012 semester start today. Thankfully, my teaching schedule doesn’t include Tuesdays, so I don’t start until tomorrow! I’m hoping to use Tuesdays this semester to work on several other projects, including adding more blog postings. Wish me luck.

This semester I’ll be teaching two sections (Section 05 and 17) of our Pre-Calculus class (Math 111) and one section (Section 05) of our Calculus I class (Math 120). Each class meets for 50-minutes per day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and an additional 75-minutes on Thursdays. The longer meetings on Thursdays will be useful in my current quest to incorporate Project Based Learning (“PBL”) into my classes.

I’ve begun the task of designing “Lab assignments” for students to work on, in small groups, during our Thursday meetings. Ideally they would be assignments that require no pre-lecture and ask the students to draw from their course content knowledge to form connections between ideas. By working together in a group, the students could collaborate (hopefully allowing for some peer instruction), ask questions, have a discussion, and digest what we’ve talked about during our other class meetings. According to my calendar, the students will have ten lab assignments over the course of the semester.

Yesterday I began working on the third lab assignment for Calculus. The topics covered earlier that week will be limits at infinity; asymptotic behavior; and continuity. I found an activity called “Carousel Game” from the NCTM‘s Illuminations series and modified it for my class. Here’s a brief overview of this lab:

  • Topic: Graphing rational functions
  • Goal: To correctly determine the equation that corresponds to the problem situation or graph
  • Technology Required: None allowed!
  • Warm-up: Vocabulary assessment, including: asymptote,  rational function, exponential function, end behavior, domain, range
  • Activity: Students will use a description or a graph to find the equation for twelve functions
  • Assessment: After finding the functions, students will find domain, range, vertical asymptotes, horizontal asymptotes, and all intercepts. This will be turned in and graded.

I also uploaded a copy of the lab instructions to my public Dropbox. If you are interested in seeing the entire lab, check it out here: (Notice that it’s 120-Lab2, even though I mentioned before it is really our third lab — I start numbering things with zero.)

I’m hoping to reuse this activity in Pre-Calculus later in the semester, once we cover material about rational functions.

One thought on “Project Based Learning

  1. I am sorry to be the one that has to tell you, but you are NOT doing Project Based Learning. What you are doing is Activity Based Learning. I would be happy to steer you towards resources so you can understand what PBL really is. Don’t feel bad…many senior teachers think they are doing PBL as well…but, they aren’t either.

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