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Archive for the ‘Calculus’ Category

The Integral Struggle

I had an extra day to fill for one of my sections of calculus, thanks to the PSAT, so I set about thinking up a game I could play. I gotta tell you, as much as there is a paucity of good content-related math games out there, it’s extra so as you move up the years in high school. I can still find a good amount of algebra and geometry games online, but Algebra 2? Precalc? Calc? Fuhgeddaboutit. Well, I’m teaching both Pre-Calc and Calc this year, so I guess I’ll just have to make them myself. (I brainstormed two more during said PSAT, so those might happen soon enough.)

Starting layout for The Integral Struggle

We just covered function transformations and how they affected integrals, so this game hits on that topic. (Yeah, we’re doing integrals first.) Here’s how it works: there are 3 functions/graphs, each of which has a total area of 0 on the interval [–10,10]. One team is Team Positive, and the other is Team Negative. Teams take turns placing numbers from –9 to 9 that transform the function and therefore transform the area. Most importantly, they also place the numbers in the limits of integration, so they can just look at a specific part of the graph.

With three functions, it becomes a matter of best of 3 – if the final integral evaluates to a positive number, Team Positive gets a point, and vice versa. If it’s a tie at the end of the game, because one or more of the integrals evaluated to 0 or were undefined, then redo those specific integrals. (I discussed with the students whether it would be better to have it be the total value of all 3 integrals instead of best of 3, but I think that makes the vertical stretch too powerful.)

That’s it! Let me know what you think. Materials below.

Integration First

Last year I went to a PD at Math for America that was about approaching calculus from a geometric point of view. The presenter mentioned during it that, historically, the idea of the integral was developed first, followed by the derivative, and then the limit. Yet in many calculus courses, they are taught in the exact reverse order. I decided that, should I teach calc again in the fall, I’d do integration first.

Well, school is rapidly approaching, and so I’ve been thinking about it again. I did so searching and found this intense forum discussion (oh, old Internet), which pointed me in the direction of the Apostol’s Calculus 1 textbook, which starts off with integrals. The post also had a bunch of arguments about why I shouldn’t do it. One of the notable arguments was that in order to fully teach integration (including u-substitution and integration by parts), you need differentiation. But I actually view that as a benefit, not a downside, because it forces a more spiraled approach. I can start with integrals, then go to differentiation, and then tie them together.

In general, I feel like area is a much more approachable subject than slope. My years of teaching Algebra I to 9th graders certainly seems to support that claim. But I also think it’s easier to understand the linearity of integration than the linearity of slope. “If you add together two functions, the area under the new function is the sum of the areas under the old functions” seems much more evidently true than “If you add together two functions, the slope of the tangent line for each point of the new function is equal to the sum of the slopes of the tangent lines at the same points on the old functions.”

Of course, Jonathan has already worked to restructure his calculus course, and I plan on taking a number of cues from his more spiraled sequence – but still with integrals first.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

Q1 (Intro to Integrals) – (Sam’s Abstract Functions, Area Under Stepwise Functions/Definite Integrals, Properties of Integrals, Riemann Sums, Area Under a Curve, Power Rule for Integrals, Trig Integrals, some applications)

Q2 (Intro to Derivatives) – (Average vs Instantaneous RoC, Tangent/Secant Lines, Power Rule, Trig Derivatives, some applications)

Q3 (Fundamental Theorem) – FTC, Chain Rule/u-substitution, Product Rule/Quotient Rule/Integration by Parts, Curve Sketching/Shape of a Graph)

Q4 (More Applications) – Related Rates, Optimization, Volume, etc

How does that sound?