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Students study derivatives by rolling in chairs

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On Sept. 7th, senior Marlon Alonso pushes senior Charleston O’Bryant in a rolling chair to help understand limits in derivatives for Jonathan Gallen’s AP Calculus class. “In calculus we have three general big ideas that we talk about, and we just got done working on the first big idea which is called limits,” Gallen said. “So what I’m trying get them to connect is the idea of a limit to this activity which starts to get them to discover what a derivative is, our second big idea,” Gallen explained.

On Sept. 7th, senior Marlon Alonso pushes senior Charleston O’Bryant in a rolling chair to help understand limits in derivatives for Jonathan Gallen’s AP Calculus class. “In calculus we have three general big ideas that we talk about, and we just got done working on the first big idea which is called limits,” Gallen said. “So what I’m trying get them to connect is the idea of a limit to this activity which starts to get them to discover what a derivative is, our second big idea,” Gallen explained.

Taylor Thomas

Taylor Thomas

On Sept. 7th, senior Marlon Alonso pushes senior Charleston O’Bryant in a rolling chair to help understand limits in derivatives for Jonathan Gallen’s AP Calculus class. “In calculus we have three general big ideas that we talk about, and we just got done working on the first big idea which is called limits,” Gallen said. “So what I’m trying get them to connect is the idea of a limit to this activity which starts to get them to discover what a derivative is, our second big idea,” Gallen explained.

By Rebecca Cade

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On Sept. 7th, Jonathan Gallen’s AP Calculus class learned about limits and derivatives by rolling a chair. Students were given the task of finding the instantaneous speed of a rolling chair with only three pieces of tape and chair.

“In calculus we have three general big ideas that we talk about, and we just got done working on the first big idea which is called limits,” Gallen said. “So what I’m trying get them to connect is the idea of a limit to this activity which starts to get them to discover what a derivative is, our second big idea,” Gallen explained.

Six years ago, after having trouble connecting the two ideas, Gallen found the idea online. It was an instant success and he has done it ever since.The project was a way to grab students attention and introduce them to a new concept. Students found the lab to be fun, like a game with an objective.          

“I really enjoyed the lab because it made learning fun. Having to figure out the question with just three pieces of duct tape and a chair was almost like a strategy game. It taught me to think outside the box,” senior Nicolas Hendricks said.

While having fun the students had to find the speed of a chair at exactly 10 feet. They weren’t given much instruction and had to figure out the problem with a small team.

“With this activity, I learned how to find instantaneous speed. It helped to show us this as a real world example. I enjoyed it,” senior Caitlyn Paschal said.

The activity gave students a real situation to apply their knowledge on. This let them see what they know at different perspective and understand the usefulness of what they are learning.

“With the rolling chair activity I learned how do get from an average approximation to an exact number. I really enjoyed learning like that. Not only was it fun to roll down the hallway really fast, but it was a different way to get our class thinking other than just sitting in the classroom,” senior Addison Slie said.

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Students study derivatives by rolling in chairs