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Learning by using a hands-on activity

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Students in Mrs. Norris’ 6th-grade algebra class at St. Clare Walker Middle School learn about the “The Line of Best Fit.”

How strong do the beams in a ceiling have to be? How do bridge engineers select beams to support traffic?

These are a few questions Mrs. Norris asks her Algebra classes at St. Clare Walker Middle School before starting a lesson on “Line of Best Fit.”

The students conducted an investigation where they collected data and found a line of best fit to determine the strength of various “beams” made of spaghetti.  Each group of students hung a cup at the center of a spaghetti beam. They started filling the cup with pennies, one at a time, until the beam broke. Then the students repeated the activity using beams made from two, three, four, five and six strands of spaghetti. 

Mrs. Norris’ class then came together to create one data set for the class and made a line to model the relationship between the number of strands of spaghetti in the beam and the load in pennies that the beam could support. The students used the line of best fit to model a set of data points for the sake of making predictions. 

Mrs. Norris said, “Investigations are a way I can guide my students to discover new learning without boring them with a lecture. Investigations allow students to work independently in groups, and they provide rich discussion opportunities for whole-class participation.” 

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 02.20.2013

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