Lesson Plan Trick #2: Career Guides

At some point in teaching logarithms students tend to hit a point of despair, at which point their usual line is “why would we need this for anything?”

One of my most vocal complainers didn’t care about math at all and wanted to be a photographer.

Results of Google book search on photography and logarithms

Each field has their own set of books that contain just the mathematics people in that career need to know. Such books are excellent sources of realistic problems, and if you happen to have the physical book at hand, you can make a student’s eyes go wide.

I ended up creating a lesson around f-stop sizes and the “zone” system of Ansel Adams. (Unfortunately, the student in question was absent that day!)

3 Responses

  1. I don’t know if I found it on the web myself a while ago, or if a blog led me here, but I found a page which explains f-stops for those who know nothing about photography, and relate it to logs:

    http://www.uscoles.com/fstop.htm

    I have a day to do something different tomorrow, so I might just do something like you did. Thanks for reminding me about this connection.

    When I taught logs, I did a little activity I learned about at a conference — showing them how to plot a bunch of data on a regular timescale, and then on a log timescale. Then we debated the merits of both.

    My posting about it:
    http://samjshah.com/2008/02/12/the-origin-of-life-on-earth-and-logarithms/

    and my smartboard for that class:
    http://samjshah.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/logarithmic-scale-history-of-life.pdf

  2. Neat!

    You may also be interested in this blog post which explores how students learn the number line. Someone in the comments suggests that the same trick would work with adults if you increased the scale from 1-100 to 1-a billion. Maybe you could try a psychology experiment with the class? (Mine always seem to be excited when I try one.)

  3. Thanks – great ideas!

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