Monday, November 12, 2018

Equations with SpaceX ZUMA Conspiracy

My students love a good conspiracy theory and I love all things space, which I have pushed on them! So when I saw this event in the news, I knew I had to make it into a math lesson! Luckily, we were starting equations with variables on both sides so it was PERFECT! 

After watching the launch video where it cuts out after separation...adding even more to the conspiracy, I explained the manipulatives we were using with a model on the board. Students knew what CubeSats were because we speak of space often so that was a natural fit. And yes, I take every opportunity I can to wear my Space Camp flight suit! 

I used the missing payload to correlate to finding the unknown value of variables. We have also been using these puzzles every Wednesday as our Do Now so the idea of balancing was familiar to them. The first one we struggled through together. Setting it up and thinking about how we could balance it were the only instructions I gave at first. 

Once we productively struggled, I had a group share their thinking using the big model on the board. 

At this point, I let students work in pairs at their own pace through four other models using algebra tiles and unifix cubes. 

I loved listening to their thinking when they were trying to balance a scale that had CubeSats (unifix cubes, variables) on both sides.


Students were able to explain that the chips represented constants and the block represented the variable which was one of the goals of the lesson. Students learned that adding or removing the same objects from each side is analogous to writing an equation to represent the scale and subtracting the same amount from each side of the equation to find the solution. Once they had the hang of modeling the equations with the manipulatives, I had them write equations for each.

The missing payload was found in the ocean a couple of days later! You have got to love a good secret government conspiracy to teach equations! Go ask Google about the missing payload ZUMA from the Falcon 9 launch!

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