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AIMS Scholars Engineer Festively!

The AIMS Center for Math and Science Education, the working arm of the AIMS Education Foundation, has committed to helping teachers in the greater Central Valley of California pursue their Master’s degrees at Fresno Pacific University. To this end, funds have been set aside to scholarship teachers interested in earning one of the two MA degrees offered by FPU in Math or STEM Education. I would like to tell you about what the STEM Education Master’s candidates are doing during the week of June 19th, 2017, but first I need to give you some history.

Throughout the 1970s, ’80s, and into the ‘90s, FPU Grad Math Science put on a series of summer Festivals. There were festivals in Mathematics, Science, and Technology. Hundreds of teachers would come to the Fresno campus in June for a two-week, day-long collection of courses taught by a variety of experts in their fields. To say that these festivals were life changing would be an understatement, and I can say this because I attended two of them myself in 1989 and 1990. These altered my professional trajectory for the rest of my life. I was not alone, just ask Lori Hamada, the Executive Director of the AIMS Center herself, she had a very similar experience. We were permanently changed by the hot, sweaty hours we spent solving problems for Father Stanley Bezuska, Lola May, Margaret (Peg) Kinney, Wil Reimer, and Jim Wilson, to name the most familiar names.

Unfortunately, these festivals have gone away in recent years. However, through the support of AIMS, FPU’s Master of Arts in STEM Education is once again offering something similar. This year is the second offering of the Engineering in the Classroom Festival. While we do not serve hundreds of teachers like those earlier festivals, we still have a strong and committed group of over 50 K-8th grade teachers who come early in the morning, stay late into the VERY hot afternoons, and they work hard to come to grips with the applications of the mathematical and scientific concepts they have been studying. In my next post I will go into greater detail on what sorts of things they are doing, but to give you a taste, these students are studying the simple machines that humans have discovered, how they can be used to create more complex machines that do the work our backs would prefer not to do. Furthermore, they are designing, modeling, bench testing, and re-designing apparatus to be attached to rockets to slow their descent (see video for one of the rocket engines being used with a car to discover Baseline data for their experiments). To top it off, they are also studying the physics and mathematics of intricate paper-folding techniques that allow such apparatus to be deployed in small volumes on these same rockets. All this amidst a very collegial and collaborative environment to boot.

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What Will You Read?

Children ran from school buses with shrieks of excitement and expectations of what the next two and a half months might bring, the telltale sign that school is out for the summer in my town. Teachers have left their classrooms for a well-deserved break. Over the next two and half months they will imagine, think… Continue Reading

Partners in Education

We have talked a lot about partners in the work we are doing here at the AIMS Center. Typically, we refer to our Head Start or school partners, but today I would like to broaden that description. I was invited to join a statewide group known as the California Community of Practice around Mathematics, sponsored… Continue Reading

Dissection Puzzles

The Infinite I

The Infinite I

This week the Puzzle Corner presents an open-ended, spatial-visualization activity that should both challenge and delight your students. The Infinite I is one of those delicious “put-together” puzzles that uses only a few pieces to form hundreds of interesting shapes. In this respect, it is similar to the popular tangram puzzle. Ironically, The Infinite I is a modification of… Continue Reading

Hatching the Egg

Hatching the Egg

This week’s Puzzle Corner activity challenges students to rearrange the nine pieces of a paper egg to produce a number of different shapes resembling birds. Doing this will exercise students’ spatial visualization abilities while building their problem-problem solving persistence. Hatching the Egg is patterned after the “Magic Egg” puzzle that appears in the Pieter van… Continue Reading

Penny Penning Puzzle

Penny Penning Puzzle

This week’s puzzle is a good one to use early in the school year. It is fairly easy and shouldn’t frustrate students too much in their early exposure to the puzzle-solving process. To do this puzzle, students need only the student sheet depicting the nine-penny arrays and a pencil. The puzzle challenges students to draw… Continue Reading

The Five-Piece Puzzle

The Five-Piece Puzzle

This week’s Puzzle Corner activity in one member of a family of challenging, multiple-solution, dissection puzzles. These puzzles are geometric in nature and many, like the one presented here, are modeled after tangrams, the best-known of the dissection puzzles. Like tangrams, students can put the five pieces of this puzzle together into a number of… Continue Reading

Shape Makers

Shape Makers

Shape Makers is one of a large family of dissection puzzles which challenge students to assemble a series of smaller shapes to form larger ones. Tangrams, which gained popularity in the early 1900s, are perhaps the most common kind of dissection puzzle. In Shape Makers, four squares and eight triangles must be reassembled to create… Continue Reading

Arranging Rectangles

My thanks to Richard Thiessen for this week’s puzzle. It consists of six pieces that can be put together to make rectangular regions (the regions can be solid or have openings in their interiors). Please download the Vee Diagram: A Guide to Problem Solving article, for ideas about how to use this puzzle with your… Continue Reading