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Applied Mathematics: Kinetic Chain

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5ccb32f2c120a Students prepare to release their first kinetic chain.

Students prepare to release their first kinetic chain.

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5ccb32f2c120a Tom M. (Leland) and Dalton G. (Earlville) work together on the first model of the chain.

Tom M. (Leland) and Dalton G. (Earlville) work together on the first model of the chain.

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5ccb32f2c120a Students prepare to release our second kinetic chain.

Students prepare to release our second kinetic chain.

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5ccb32f2c120a Our second model was more than 4 table lengths long!

Our second model was more than 4 table lengths long!

As the school year begins to wind down, students in Applied Mathematics continue to work together to problem solve and overcome challenges. As a challenge just before spring break, I asked my students to complete the longest kinetic chain they could build. We built our kinetic chains out of popsicle sticks and nothing else.

 

To start the challenge, I showed students a video to help them get their chain started. No one seemed to be having success and several students tried, and failed to build even the smallest kinetic chain. Students said, “Ms. Hurst, this is impossible”, “These aren’t the right popsicle sticks”, and so on, until most had given up. We looked at video after video, hoping to find a tutorial that was easy to follow, hopefully leading to a successful popsicle stick chain.

 

With about 15 minutes left in class, we finally found a video that made sense to the students. Within those last moments of class, students worked together, after much struggle, to complete a kinetic chain that was two table lengths long. 

 

Students liked this activity so much they asked that we continue the chain the next day, as well. Now that students knew they could build this chain, their desire to build a better product was evident. On the second day, students worked together to build their chain more than four table lengths long…which amounted to 300 popsicle sticks!

 

During these two days of class, students worked together to solve a problem and design a chain that improved upon earlier models. Learning to solve a complex problem and persevere in the process of solving it is key to success in any field or career these students might pursue in the future!

 

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