Surviving spring exams
Spring exams generally cause a shift in the number of groups visiting the planetarium and, if you are a classroom planetarium, it could mean a couple of weeks of very strange schedules.
My experience this year was my regular classes to the planetarium had about 1/3 their normal amount of class time. This caused me to reevaluate the pacing plan for my class. I felt that while I could continue to introduce new concepts, it would be difficult to make sure that the students reached a successful depth of knowledge. So, I switched gears and dedicated time to fortifying the students’ knowledge of concepts we had already covered or started and integrated testing strategies.
Highlight the key ideas.
Strike out the dead wood from the question.
Flag questions for later review that you don’t know the answers to.
Ask for a ruler or blank paper to act as a reading guide.
Math Exam Strategies
Show your work (ask for more scratch paper if you need it; there is no judgment made for needing more space).
Double check that your formula is copied correctly.
Write out a quick list of the order of operations PEMDAS (also remembered by "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally," it stands for Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication and Division, and Addition and Subtraction) to make it easier to follow.
Multiple Choice & Matching
Strike out the distracters from the answer options.
Most questions have 1 wrong answer, 2 possibly correct answers, and 1 correct answer.
Match the ones you know first and then use process of elimination.
Be mindful of absolute statements (all, none, never, always) as they make the question more difficult.
At the end of the day all we can hope for is that we have provided the knowledge and the skills so that the students are ready for the exam.
As part of the testing season I have expanded one of the students’ favorite activities: Kaleidoscopes. Previously I just had one template in Blender for the students to use to make their own kaleidoscopes. It made a simple equilateral triangle pattern that the students just changed the pattern on a disk that was repeated out.
Another couple templates that I made were for four- and five-sided kaleidoscopes. Instead of arranging the virtual mirrors at 60-degree intervals, they are arranged as a square and pentagon respectively. Students were able to add additional shapes to the field to manipulate after they showed understanding of the basic concepts.
After having the students make a few of these, one of the students brought up seeing the inside of an actual kaleidoscope and noticed the mirrors weren’t arranged at 60-degree intervals, but instead at intervals of 72-36-72 degrees. This arrangement is kind of interesting as it creates a good pattern that is based on the internal angles of a five-point star. (Note for the samples below I distorted the shape of the disk to make the pattern more apparent while leaving the colors the same.)
One of the students challenged me to create a kaleidoscope file that has the mirrors morph from three, four, five, and star arrangement with the center object remaining stationary.
Summer break lessons can be a great way to help students retain information from school year to year. I like to have the students make sundials. When they get off the bus I gather the kids and have them partner up, with each partnership getting a piece of chalk.
The pair moves to a clear part of the sidewalk and traces one of the member’s feet, and then mark with the time the location of their head. We meet up again like this before they leave (normally about 4-5 hours later) and have them stand in their foot prints and update the shadow with the current time.
The partner who just had to stand then gets the opportunity to estimate the location for the shadow at the hours between. We have a quick discussion of how the Earth revolves around the sun and they predict with where the shadows would be in the winter.