The Robots are Coming

By now you know that math was not my strongest subject in high school.  Hart High math teachers, however, have given me a second chance to embrace all things numbers! First, there was Diana De La Maza who impressed us by focusing on Reading 7 in her Algebra 1B class. Now Sunny Lee surprises us with a Reading 7 / Math Practice 4 interactive lesson. You may remember Sunny Lee’s Real World Math from my very first ever Hart Literacy post.  Let me tell you, Sunny never disappoints with her engaging lessons.  She models how a 21st century classroom should run.  (Do you have a 21st century classroom?  Read the 10 signs here and find out!)  Her lessons integrate diverse media formats, offer opportunities for students to problem solve using real-world situations, and require students to spend a majority of class time engaged in conversation.

This Geometry lesson, as mentioned, focused on two standards outlined below.

Reading 7:  Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Math Practice 4:  Model with mathematics.  Mathematically proficient students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace.

However, as we discussed the lesson, Sunny and I realized she actually hit more than two standards with this “engaging” Engage NY Common Core lesson.  Students transition from verbal, graphical, and algebraic thinking to modeling robot motion in a straight line and using lines of motion and previously learned topics (distance, proportion) to determine the location of impact in a warehouse.

The lesson started with a video you can view here: Kiva Warehouse Robotics.  In the video you learn about the same robots that have replaced humans in Amazon warehouses.  Fun fact…A mind-boggling 426 items were ordered every second from Amazon on Cyber Monday.  Human employees would take up to about 90 minutes to find, deliver, sort and pack some items.  These Robots are doing the same work in about 15 minutes.  (I interrupt this post to bring you a cross-curricular blitz!  Imagine discussing this same video and the impact of this technology in a history class, an English class, or a psychology class!  Ooooh!!!  I feel a performance task coming on! Here are some thought-provoking texts you could pair with the video:  The Robots are Coming for Wall Street, Americans Think Robots are Coming for Many Jobs, but Not Their Jobs, Why Robots Will Always Need Us (Op-ed piece), any dystopian novels like 1984, or  The Robots are Coming (poem). Erin and I are actually using this poem in our AP Lang classes this week with an argument piece on the value of liberal arts and the increasing emphasis on STEM education at many universities.)    

Back to the math!  How do the robots know where to find items?  How do they know where to deliver these items?  How do they avoid bumping into other robots?  The students in Sunny’s class contemplated the math involved in programming these robots and discussed how they would determine where a robot should start and end, what paths the robot should take, and the speed of the robot.   Notice their adorable hats!  (D=distance, T=time, S=speed)



The exploratory challenge was up next… Students imagined themselves as programmers who needed to use math to program a robot to effectively move about an empty warehouse. To make the experience authentic, Sunny brought this moment to life with a giant grid on her floor.


Next, students started a remote control car at (0,o)  and sent it flying in a straight line. Students recorded the distance traveled and the time spent to find the speed.  After the remote control car they used a robot borrowed from the robotics team, and then a tricked-out car that a student lent to the experiment.  From the collected data students discussed and answered questions, plotted points, and discussed the theorem that would help them find the distance between two points.  They also predicted the location of impact on the wall, diagrammed this, and then verified the answer algebraically.   All this time Sunny was leading students by asking questions and them allowing them to talk to their classmates and  problem solve together.

Finally, students were given an exit ticket.  This exit ticket helps Sunny check for understanding so that she can design future lessons based on student needs.  The exit ticket is a quick and easy formative assessment tool.

So let’s review the five reading skills needed to survive today’s technological world.  These relate to Reading Standard 7:

1. Identify the essential question.   Check!
2. Locate information.   Check!
3. Analyze information.   Check!
4. Synthesize information.   Check!
5. Communicate information.   Check!
Awesome job, Sunny!  Thanks for all you do to create engaging learning experiences that help students not only master the standards, but also prepare for real-world jobs of the future!

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