Jean Agte’s seventh-grade math students are working on ratios.
They start with a simple ratio. Twenty-to-2, for example. They are given another large number. Eighty, for instance. And they have to come up with the answer, which is a new small number. Ta-da, it’s eight.
“Aren’t ratios fun?” she asks her North Pines Junior High class. “Now I’m going to ask someone to give me a really fun, juicy number that’s less than 50 and more than 40.”
Agte is doing her best to ready her math students for the state’s seventh-grade assessments, which, under Washington’s education reform, will be given and scored this spring for the first time.
Agte is more than familiar with the new math standards. She worked on one of the state committees to create both the standards and the sample tests given last year.
After Agte’s students finish their practice ratio problems, she is going to throw her class a real-life problem in which they can test these same skills.
The Disney studio, she tells her students, wants to make a life-size replica of the mom in the movie, “Honey I Blew Up the Kids.” The students have a hand print of the mom. Their job is to decide how tall the giant mom has to be.
And the next problem might be this: Using a standard Oreo cookie, decide what size it would be if it was “blown up” to fit the mom’s hand.
The answers to these problems must include a written explanation of how the students got their answer, with diagrams, pictures and words. The explanation has to tell what strategy was used, and what kind of mathematics the students used.
Agte often asks her students to solve problems that apply to their world. She strives for creativity, for problems in which students can use simple mathematical concepts and processes, then add logical reasoning and problem solving - and finally relate it to their own lives.
In December, her kids measured the contents of packaged food, checking for accuracy in labeling. Everything from Hamburger Helper to Honey Nut Cheerios to canned mushrooms underwent scrutiny.
“You should have seen the room. It was a sea of boxes,” Agte said.
Sometimes, her problems are simply fun.
A decoding problem inspired responses that look like hieroglyphics. Except for one student who created his alphabet by making a line one centimeter long equal an ‘a,’ two centimeters equal a ‘b,’ and so on.
And my personal favorite of Agte’s problems is simplicity itself:
“The answer is 36. What is the question?”
Winning bridge builder
Brandon Asbury, a sophomore at Valley Christian School, recently won the Inland Northwest Regional Bridge Building Contest at Gonzaga University.
He also won the craftsmanship award.
Asbury’s win in February earns him a berth in international competition in Las Vegas on May 2.
This will be Asbury’s second year in international competition. Last year, he traveled to Chicago and placed ninth.
Rachel Rapp, a University High School senior, won second in the regional contest and also qualifies to compete in Las Vegas.
U-Hi Winter Guard wins
University High School’s Winter Guard marching unit won its first competition of the season in Maple Valley, Wash., on Feb. 21.
Members include Tamy Call, captain, Beth McFarland, BreAnne Buchannan, Amber Riggs, Michelle Bewley, Crystal Trainer, Jessica Stine, Jill Bell, Courtney Herring, Charissa Tallman, Jennifer Simons, Sara Blisner, Christina Devine, Sara Tilley and Krystal Cline.
Oops, it was U-Hi’s ASB
University High School’s associated student body leaders organized their school’s involvement in a recent competition with Central Valley High School to raise money for the March of Dimes. An earlier article in the Valley Voice failed to mention their role.
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