In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, there are currently three more hurricanes in the Atlantic: Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Katia. All three are concerning in one way or another, but Hurricane Irma has developed into one of the most powerful hurricanes on record. It is currently wreaking havoc in the Caribbean, and is headed in the direction of Florida.
As educators, we should be aware of these events going on in the world, and ready to talk to our students in compassionate and intelligent ways about them. My own students (I teach high school math at a small private academy) want to know what are the possible outcomes of these storms, what are the dangers involved, and who will be effected. Even though we live far from "hurricane country" (the last time a hurricane did any serious damage in our state was before my students were born), being part of a wider community means being both concerned and compassionate about the effects of these natural disasters.
Talking about the hurricanes, and the potential tragedies that may occur as a result of their passing, should be done in an age appropriate fashion. At the high school level, I used some math related questions as a launching point to spend a few minutes talking to my students about natural disasters. The students saw real-world application of mathematics, and had the opportunity to somberly reflect on what that mathematics meant from the perspective of humanity in the path of the hurricane.
If you would like to take a look at some of the discussion that took place in my math classes, you can visit the following links:
Response to a question I received from a resident of Florida, who wanted to know how long she could expect her house to be "under" the hurricane. I used this question as a problem-solving exercise with my upper level math classes.
A write-up of a slightly more complex math question that I worked through with my students. The problem is to identify how long it will be before the hurricane reaches a specific point.
Professor Puzzler gets irate about the conspiracy theories and "fake news" floating around regarding hurricanes.
Tell Us about Your Lesson Plans
In 2002, we launched two major websites: The Problem Site, and Articles for Educators. These two sites were both educational in nature, but had very different focuses. The Problem Site was geared toward students, with math problems and educational games. Articles for Educators was geared toward teachers, with lesson plans and research topics in the field of education.
As time has gone on, the focus of The Problem Site has broadened, and we've provided more and more resources for teachers, such as printable worksheets, reference units, the virtual classroom, and other features. In recent months we've come to recognize that there is no longer need to maintain two separate websites, as the content of Articles For Educators fits within the scope of this site.
Accordingly, we've been working to transfer the content from AFE over to TPS, and at the same time we've developed more robust features for that content; now teachers who use the "Lesson Plans" section of this site can create not just lesson plans, but also slide shows, worksheets, and answer keys. The new version of AFE can be found here: Lesson Plans.
As an example, I just added a lesson plan that I used in my high school Physics class last week. This lesson plan contains instructions for the teacher, a short slide show, and a couple handouts teachers can use. The lesson is: Blue Whales Eating Krill.
You can also integrate lesson plans with "Pro Problems" on the site; set up a slide show that contains selected pro problems for your students. Here's an example: Systems - Word Problems.
I hope you enjoy the updated appearance and easier "Print" capabilities of the new Articles for Educators, as well as the way it integrates with The Problem Site.
On a completely different subject, I would like to wrap up with an apology; The Problem Site had a bit of downtime overnight as we migrated the entire system to a new server. The process took about 1.5 hours 3:00 AM to 4:30 AM (EST). The process was intended to happen over the weekend while schools were not in session, but due to circumstances beyond our control, the process was initiated overnight this morning.
We understand that may have produced inconvenience for our schools in China, India, and throughout Europe, and I apologize for that inconvenience. The new server is faster and more robust, and we do not anticipate any more downtime in the near future.
Recently we've had a few printable mazes added to the site. Mostly these are related to upcoming holidays. There are a couple mazes related to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, some new president mazes for Presidents' Day, several new Valentine's Day mazes, and a couple new St. Patrick's Day mazes as well.
For a full directory of all the mazes on the site, go here: Printable Maze Directory.
If you're a pro-member, you can also create your own mazes for special occasions, or just for fun!
On the other hand, in case you're the sort of person who would rather be out enjoying the snow, here's another idea for you: make a maze in the snow! It's actually easier than you might think, and you just need to follow some simple rules to create your own snow maze.
Here's a picture of a snow maze I made for my son and I to play in this afternoon. Click the image to get a larger view.
- Your entire maze will be one single, connected path with many forks in it. Once you've started a path, you can turn, you can fork, but you should never leap out of your path to start a new, disconnected path.
- When you want to create a fork, backtrack along your path and select a fork point, and walk in a new direction. The repeated backtracking will also help pack your path down.
- Make sure you have several forks that go a good distance; if all the forks are very short, it will be obvious to the maze solver that it goes nowhere.
- Forks should always go out from a path, but never reconnect to the path at the other end. In other words, every fork is eventually a dead end.
Once the maze is made, pick one of the dead ends as the ending point of the maze, and stand at that endpoint. Tell the solver where the starting point is, and let them try to get to you without stepping out of the path.
The beauty of this is, for every fork you made, there's an endpoint, and every endpoint can be a place for you to stand. Every time you move to a new endpoint, you've created a whole new maze for the solver, just by standing in a different place.
My son and I had a blast with this maze.
When you're done, come on inside, make some hot chocolate, and print off a maze to try together on paper!
There's nothing like the fresh white landscape of a snowstorm (plus the first snow day for many students and teachers) to put you in the Christmas spirit! When you come inside from making snowmen and snow angels (or just shoveling snow!) and you're sipping hot chocolate, while looking out the window at the fresh falling snow, here are a few things on the site that may be in keeping with your mood:
Christmas Tree Light Calculator
This was built just for fun, at the request of one of Professor Puzzler's Pre-Calculus students. But even though it was just for fun, you might find it useful in determining how many feet of light strands to buy for your tree!
Make Your Own Snowflakes!
That's right - these snowflakes don't have to be shoveled, no matter how many of them you make. Choose from a variety of regular polygons to base your design on, and pick from a full spectrum of colors and shades to create your masterpiece!
'Twas the Night Before Christmas Jumbles and Searches
Choose from a list of vocabulary words like courser, thistle, miniature, and obstacle - all vocabulary words you'll find in Clement Clarke Moore's Christmas masterpiece - and create printable worksheets of jumbled words, word searches, and cross search puzzles.
Christmas Songs Reference
This brief reference unit contains two of the songs of Christmas - the song of Zacharias, and Mary's Magnificat - from the Bible account of Luke's Gospel. The related questions are designed to encourage reading for comprehension.
Nativity Narrative Quiz
For people who think they've got the Christmas story down pat, this quiz puts a different spin on it - the quiz gives a variety of statements about the Christmas story and asks you to decide whether the statement is "traditional" or "biblical"
Much Much More!
This is far from an exhaustive list of Christmas resources on The Problem Site. To make it easier for you to find them, there's a new "Seasonal Resources" section that provides links to more features. Not only can you get Christmas themed resources, but this page provides resources for a variety of holidays and seasons.
Christmas is a Letdown (On another site)
TheProblemSite's administrator also serves as the main writer for a site called "Biblical Illuminations" which provides devotional and spiritual messages. "Christmas is a letdown" is this year's Christmas message on the site.
The Physics Study Guide!
The Physics Study Guide is about 1/2 complete! We have units one through six, plus the appendices online. You can find them here:
In addition to a large number of sample problems, in which Mr. Physics talks you through how to solve problems in kinematics, forces, momentum, simple harmonic motion, and more, there are over 200 practice problems for you to try!
More units will be appearing in the spring semester, after Christmas Break.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
During the 1985 - 1986 school year (that was the year I graduated from high school), I took high school level Physics. It was the first science course I took that really came alive for me and interested me. In fact, it interested me so much that when I went to college I decided to major in Engineering Physics. Of course, it only took one semester to realize that there were no college professors who could make the subject come to life like my high school teacher did. In his class, we did crazy, disturbing problems like this:
...and like this:
Who wouldn't love Physics when it was taught like that?
My high school Physics teacher taught from the mid 60s until the late 90s. He had a passion for the subject, and it rubbed off on his students. He also wasn't content with any of the Physics textbooks that he used; they never covered subjects in the order and manner in which he wanted them covered.
So in the 80s, he began composing his own Physics study guide to use in his classes. He spent many summer hours seated in front of a TRS-80 (anyone remember those computers?) typing his own explanations for every subject he intended to cover, along with many sample problems and detailed solutions.
The result was a fourteen-chapter study guide which fills a massive three-ring binder full to overflowing. Every year students would say, "Can I keep my copy to take to college with me?" The answer was always "Of course!"
Students from his classes started to get a reputation at the college level. The general rule of thumb was that a high school Physics course would cover one semester of college Physics. But students from our school never saw anything we didn't already know in college Physics until about the time of spring break. And college Physics professors, when they found out who a student's high school Physics teacher was, would say, "Oh, you're going to do just fine here."
He was just that kind of teacher.
Oh...and he's also my father.
"But what happened to that study guide, typed into obsolete computers like 'trash-80s' 30 years ago?"
It's been sitting in a massive three-ring binder overflowing with explanations, diagrams, problems, and solutions. And the digital files have been sitting in folders on Mr. Physics' computer. Until now. He has graciously agreed that it's time for all that work to be shared, so other teachers and students can make use of it.
Converting those old files is a time-consuming process, and many of the images are being recreated from scratch, so we're going to be posting units from the Physics Study Guide one chapter at a time over the course of several months. Not all units are being published in order. For example, Unit Six was the first unit published. You can find them here:
Unit One contains a great list of advice for problem solving in Physics, as well as a large collection of solved and unsolved kinematics problems. My honors physics students will be doing a unit on torques later on this year (a topic that many high school curricula do not cover), and they will be using this page as part of their curriculum: Rotational Equilibrium and Torques.
Oh...and by the way...happy birthday, dad!
Educators can get a free membership simply by sharing an original lesson plan on our Articles for Educators page!