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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

Miscellaneous Puzzles

Cups and Downs

Cups and Downs

This week’s Puzzle Corner activity is a magic trick with a mathematical, as well as a slight-of-hand, component. I first came across this trick in one of Martin Gardner’s many books on recreational mathematics. I liked it so much that I have been stumping students, friends, and family members with it ever since. In order to make… Continue Reading

Tower Trade

Tower Trade

Tower Trade is a paper adaptation to the traditionally wooden Towers of Hanoi puzzle. In the classic version, a wooden base supports three equally spaced dowels, usually aligned in a row, although the earliest version of this puzzle is reputed to have had the dowels arranged in an equilateral triangle. Six – this number varies —… Continue Reading

Total Count-Ability

Total Count-Ability

How many different answers can you find and justify for the nursery rhyme Going to St. Ives? As I was going to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives. Every wife had seven sacks, Every sack had seven cats, Every cat had seven kits. Kits, cats, sacks and wives, How many were going… Continue Reading

Ocean Anagrams

Ocean Anagrams

This week’s Puzzle Corner activity has an ocean theme. In it, students are presented with a number of anagrams. Anagrams are words or collections of words whose letters are rearranged to form new words or collections of words. For example, an anagram for canoe is ocean. Anagrams have a long history in the puzzle community. Lewis Carroll, who was really… Continue Reading

The Age Game

The Age Game

This puzzle features a series of computations involving, among other factors, the student’s own age and birth month. After the computations are completed, students are asked to find a pattern in their answers. This is best done in groups and is not difficult if no computational errors have been made. After students have discovered the… Continue Reading

How Many Squares?

In this week’s puzzle students are asked to find out how many squares are in the figure shown. This is not a difficult puzzle, but it does require some careful observation, organization, and counting. I encourage you to turn to the puzzle right now and give it a try before reading on. This will help… Continue Reading

Time Marches On

Time Marches On

This week’s Puzzle Corner activity is a simple problem with surprising results. The question posed in the puzzle is: “How many times during a day (24 hours) do the hour and minute hands of a clock point in the same direction?” The obvious answer seems to be 24, yet this is not correct. Students are… Continue Reading