Monday, July 22, 2013

A Very Eventful Day at VSA

Today started as a semi-normal Monday. I got up early, and met down in the lobby with the 3-mile run group. Because it was raining, the proctor decided not to let us go. Instead, all of us went to the Commons Gym. I decided to try the stationary bike, instead of using a treadmill. After a 30 minute workout, I took a shower and went to breakfast.

Today's puzzler was rather grim: Mr. Jones is on his deathbed, and his much younger wife is about to give birth. The family lawyer is summoned to record Mr. Jones's last Will and Testament to account for his new child. He tells the lawyer that if the baby is a boy, to give 2/3 of the estate to his son, and 1/3 to his wife. If it is a girl, give 2/3 to his wife, and 1/3 to his daughter. The lawyer prints the will, Mr. Jones signs it, and then dies. Afterwards, his wife gives birth to twins: a boy and a girl. How should the lawyer divide the estate? As always, STOP reading if you want to solve it yourself.

From the fractions given, we know that in terms of inheritance, Mr. Jones values his son twice as much as his wife, and values his wife twice as much as his daughter. Therefore the ratio of inheritances (son to wife to daughter) is 4:2:1. Therefore, the son gets 4/7, the wife gets 2/7, and the daughter gets 1/7. Next Dawson had us calculate the division if there were 3 boy triplets, 2 boys and a girl, 2 girls and a boy, and 3 boys. Tomorrow's Puzzler is supposed to be the hardest one we do, so be sure to read my blog!

After the Puzzler, the student who was supposed to teach on Friday (but got sick) gave her lesson on radicals (square roots and such.) One Mission Holder's task was not to write anything down. No notes, no practice problems, nothing. The second Mission Holder had to raise his hand to answer for everything. He were also supposed to get agitated if the teacher stopped calling on his, which she eventually did. The Academic Mission Holder had pretend he did not get any of it, and ask for frequent re-explanations. I thought she handed the mission holders pretty well, but had some problems with the material. Dawson asked her multiple questions she was not prepared for. All but one of them she did not have answers for.

After this lesson, we had independent study. Most of the class has gotten tired of independent study, but I have not. I talked to Dawson about how independent study has gone downhill, and he told me that's been a trend since his first year. That's why we do lots of independent study in the first week, and reduce the amount in the second and third weeks. In fact, today was our last day of independent study.

Next, we had a lesson on factoring polynomials. The first Mission Holder had to "fall asleep" in class. The first and second time she "fell asleep," the teacher picked up a textbook, held it high, and dropped it on the desk with a loud boom. This was fairly effective. I would have had the student stand up for the rest of class, so they would have not chance of falling back asleep. The second person had their cell phone go off multiple times. The first time the student teacher let it go, but the second time he took it. It continued to go off for the rest of the class. (Dawson was behind all the periodic calls.) The student teacher did not know how to turn it off, but I think he should have asked the student to turn it off before taking it. Overall, I thought his lesson went pretty well. I actually learned a new method of factoring polynomials with an x squared coefficient other than one. It actually makes more sense than they way I was taught to do it. The only problem with the method is that it is hard to prove. (Most students don't care about the proof, but Dawson does.)

After the second lesson, we had our last "good" lunch of macaroni and cheese, lasagna, salmon and green beans. I forgot to mention in my previous Monday and Friday blogs that there are also "good" desserts along with these meals. Normal desserts are cookies, and carrot cake, but with lunch on Monday and Friday they also have a five layer chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, brownies, apple pie, and chocolate pie. I tried a different one each time. They are all excellent. 

After lunch, we had one more student lesson. This time it was on the Quadratic Formula. The first Mission Holder had to text (or pretend to text) throughout class, trying not to get caught. At first she did it discretely, but towards the end, she had her phone on her desk. It was only at this point that he noticed and took it away. This time, the phone did not go off before or after confiscation. The second Mission Holder had to repeatedly ask what they would need the quadratic equation for. I assumed Dawson was referring to real life situations, but the Mission Holder was vague in his questions. The teacher just told him when you use it as a method to solve a quadratic equation, and that it would be on the test. The Academic Mission Holder got the addition and subtraction under the radical mixed up. The teacher handled this very well. He had already went over the answer and shown the steps on the board when the student would ask, so he had the student tell him where the steps differed. He was then able to explain why the student's answer was wrong. He was also very nice about it. At the end of the lesson, he gave us a worksheet for "homework." (He planned it was classwork, but ran out of time.)

The official VSA Special Topics in Math Photo!
 (From left to right: Emily, me, Pablo, Alex, Sophia,
Kaitlin, Alia, Brenden, David G, David S, John,
Francis, Jyra, and Dawson)
After this lesson, we did more independent study. I was almost able to finish the chapter, but even if I did, I would not have had enough time to take the quiz. Also, the quiz would have been pointless, since there is no more independent study: there is no lesson for me to move on to. For the end of class, and all of study hall, we watched the movie Stand and Deliver, which is about a Calculus class at Garfield High School in East LA. The movie is set in the 1980s. At the beginning of the movie, Jaime "Kemo" Escalante shows up at Garfield High to take the Computer Science position he was given. Unfortunately, the school does not have any computers (They are severely underfunded, and have been trying to get computers for a long time.) He ends up teaching Math 1A instead. At first he does not do very well, and even gets threats from his students, but he is eventually able to make even the most troublesome teens into dedicated students. After teaching for about a semester, he realizes that these students have much more potential, so he decides to teach them Calculus. This requires him to hold a summer Pre-Calculus course, including Saturdays from 7-12. During the next school year, they come to school an hour early, have Calculus for two periods, and stay after school. This really makes all 18 students question their devotion to the AP exam. After months of hard work, the AP test finally comes. All 18 students pass. A few months after, the Educational Testing Service decides to investigate, because of their high scores and extremely similar mistakes. Escalante is outraged and claims the investigation is due to the racial and economic status of the students. Eventually, the ETS makes them take the test again, but they only have one day to study. All the students pass the second time, so Escalante asks for their original scores to be reinstated. I really enjoyed the movie. Like Good Will Hunting the film exposed us the problems brilliant math students/mathematicians face outside of math. Obviously, they are dramatized for film, but they are based on true stories. It's also nice to take a break from doing math. I love doing math, but sometimes it's nice to sit back and not think for a while.

After class, we had free time until dinner (there is no Arête this week), so I did my laundry. It was a good thing I went down there as soon as I got back to Hank. By the time 15 minutes had passed, there were 10 people in line for the already full washing machines. Since we had 2 hours of free time, I was able to wash, dry and fold my laundry before dinner at 6.

After dinner, it was SOFT time, but a couple of the proctors led a game of Capture the Flag on Wyatt lawn that I and about 40 other students joined. I had never played Capture the Flag before, but I had a lot of fun. It's really just a big strategy game (one of my favorite types of games), which relies a little bit on athleticism. I enjoy doing something that requires thinking, and a little exercise at the same time. We ended up playing a total of four games. My team won only one game, but it was still fun. I tried both offense and defense. It turns out I'm a better defender, which is what I thought from the beginning.

Tomorrow is a normal day, with breakfast, class, lunch, and more class. However, from 4-6 we have a mini Proctor night (we have to spend time together as a group.) The whole third floor is going to play games on the Wyatt lawn, including another game of Capture the Flag. We also have SOFT time after dinner. I can't wait for tomorrow, but it also means three days of VSA left. 

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