Today started out as a normal day, but got to be much better than normal by the end. I started with the 7:00 AM three-mile-run, back on the initial course. We were back down to four students plus the proctor today. After the run, I showered and went to breakfast. After breakfast, I made a couple final touches on my PowerPoint, and was soon off to class. As always, we started with a puzzler: 100 people are in line to board a 100 seat aircraft. The first person (hereafter the "Jerk") looses his boarding pass, so he sits in a random spot. Everyone else sits in their assigned seat, unless their seat is already taken, in which case they sit in a random place. You (hereafter the "Samaritan") are at the back of the line. What are the odds that you get your assigned seat? As always, STOP reading if you want to solve it yourself.
For the first five minutes, no one knew the answer. I had guessed 50-50, but I was not sure. Dawson made it multiple choice. A) 1 out of 2, B) 1 out of 10, C) 1 out of 25, D) 1 out of 100, or E) 0. He gave us a few seconds to think, and then tallied our answers. (He did not have us say them out loud, but rather looked at our papers.) The votes were 3 for A, 2 for B, 1 for C, 5 for D, and 1 for E. Dawson immediately ruled out E for us. There is definitely a chance that the Samaritan will get his seat. He also said that D was the odds that the Jerk sat in his correct seat, but not necessarily the odds of the Samaritan getting his correct seat.
Next, Dawson had us experiment. He put a row of 12 chairs in the front of the room, and had us line up in the back. He then handed us boarding passes (index cards) with out seat numbers (1-12). He did not show the Jerk their pass, and put it in his pocket. After we were all sitting, he had us raise our hands if we were displaced (sitting in the wrong seat.) We repeated this 12 times, so each person got to be the Jerk once and the Samaritan once. On the third attempt, the Samaritan got his seat, even though the Jerk was not sitting is his correct seat. This completely ruled out D. After doing this 12 times, the Samaritan got his seat 6 out of 12 times. On the 11 one, Dawson had us go really slow, and had us raise our hand as soon as we sat down in a wrong seat. (Assuming we had to because our seat was occupied.) At that point, he made us stop and think. With his help, we figured out that the deciding factor was when someone sat in the Jerk or Samaritan's seat. If someone sits in the jerk's seat, the shuffling ends. If some sits in the Samaritan's seat, the Samaritan does not get his seat. Since there are 2 possibilities that are equally likely (unassigned seats are chosen at random), the odds are 50-50 or 1 out of 2.
After the Puzzler, we did independent study until 10:00. At 10, the first student "teacher" was taken out of the room, and the missions were given out. (For each student taught lesson, there are 3 Mission Holders who are trying to destroy your lesson.) Since there are 12 lessons, each of us will get to be a Mission Holder three times. For each lesson there are two behavior missions, and one academic mission. For the first lesson, one person had to listen to their iPod. They started out discretely, but eventually were blasting their music. The first teacher did not notice until she blasted the music. The second mission holder had to draw in their notebook the whole time. Towards the end of class, he started showing everyone his drawings. Since the first lesson was on solving systems of equations, the academic Mission Holder kept making mistakes in their calculations (making numbers negative when they weren't, multiplying incorrectly, etc.). I really enjoyed this lesson, not because of the content, but because of the various missions. I was not a Mission Holder, but it was still fun to watch them try to mess the teacher up.
After the first lesson, it was my turn to teach the class about Mixture Problems. Mixture problems are word problems that involve combining things to make a mixture or solution. My lesson did not go that well. The teaching and guided practice portion went well, but when I gave them the worksheet, it all fell apart. I was worried that the problems would be too easy and boring, so I picked really hard problems. I budgeted 25 minutes to do the worksheet and go over the answers, but Dawson was not even finished by the end of 25 minutes. Only a few people were even able to get the first problem, so I ended up teaching that one too. I did not even finish teaching the first problem when my 45 minutes were up. The Mission Holders were very annoying. One of them asked to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes. At one point he even produced a doctor's note, saying he has bladder problems. Another student was creating notes that were passed around throughout class. I was going to read them out loud, but they were stupid notes like "Hi Thomas." and "I'm bored." It got the point that I "made" everyone stay 10 minutes after class. The Academic Mission Holder could not create the equations from the word problems. This worked out well for her, as she really did not understand. I helped here one on one, and afterwards she said that was really helpful. I was glad to have at least a small success in my failure of a lesson. I have to say, just like real life, dealing with the academic "Mission Holders" is much easier than dealing with the behavior "Mission Holders."
Overall, I think the lesson was a good learning experience. I learned how to prepare a lesson, and teach it. My parents are teachers, so I have some idea of how do it, but doing it myself was completely different. I now have a better appreciation for what teachers have to deal with everyday. I also learned that a potentially good lesson can totally bomb if you give the students difficult problems.
|Scavenger Hunt tool kit: calculator, pencil, eraser and map|
After my lesson, we went to lunch. Today was Friday, so we had the "good" food. (Macaroni and cheese, lasagna, salmon, and green beans) When we came back from lunch, Dawson went over the rules for the scavenger hunt. We were divided into 4 teams, each with a referee (Dawson, Emily, Ms. Gray, and Dawson's former TA were the 4 referees). My teammates were Francis and David Sah. Dawson was our referee. Each team was assigned a color. Our group was the Orange group, so all of our puzzles were in orange file folders. Each referee had a folder with the answers to the puzzles. They could only confirm if we finished the puzzle. If we made a mistake, they could tell us how many mistakes we made, but not where. The referees also had a schedule telling us how much time we should spend on each task. When we arrived at a new location, they could tell us how far ahead or behind schedule we were. Each team also got one call to each other team to check how far ahead of behind there were at the time of the call. Each team was given a map of the Vanderbilt Campus, and a letter to number conversion sheet. When we were all ready, Dawson gave each team a colored folder to start with. Each team ended up going to a different place, but we all ended up going to the same places in a different order.
|The 3 of us working on the first Sudoku.|
We had the hardest task first. It was a decryption puzzle, but the letters we got out of it did not make sense. The letters were shifted. (a shift of 3 makes A's into D's, B's into E's etc.) It turned out the shift was 18 letters. Once we solved it, the message said to go to the Peabody Library. At the library we asked the person at the info desk for an orange folder. They gave us one that contained a Sudoku puzzle. We quickly solved it, and had to go to the Furman building. There were 3 circled spaces in the puzzle, that gave us the room number we needed to go to. We had to search the map for the Furman building. It ended up being all the way on the other side of campus, so we started walking.
Once we arrived at Furman, we easily found our folder outside room 114. This time we had to encrypt the phrase "Scavenger Hunt." Again there were number circled that told us what room of the Blair School of Music we needed to visit. Blair was on the other side of campus, so again we had a long walk. At this point we were 1 minute behind schedule. Once we got to Blair, we instantly found the folder. It contained another Sudoku. We blasted through this puzzle, as we worked together instead of individually like the last Sudoku. Dawson was very impressed with our speed. By the time we left, we were five minutes ahead of schedule. The Sudoku Puzzle also had circled numbers that gave us the room number we needed to visit in the Hank Ingram house. It was another long trek (out last one), but when we got there, we found our folder right outside my proctor's room, 329. This time we had to encrypt the phrase "Team Twenty-two" (This was one of the team names when we played Jeopardy last Friday.) We got through this, and moved on. Our next stop was the Payne building right across from the library, so we ran. There was a decryption there to. Once we decrypted it read "Go to the Hank Office," so we ran back to Hank. At the office, we asked the receptionist for an orange folder. He produced one that contained another decryption. This decrypted to, "I shall return to class," so we ran back to the Hobbs building. In class, there was on final puzzle to solve.
|The Vanderbilt Campus Map we used|
We were the first ones to arrive at the classroom. This time we had to encrypt the phrase, "Polar Bears fish in pairs." We were about halfway done, when the next group showed up. After we finished encrypting, we had to say the rest of the phrase out loud. (This was from one of our puzzlers, "Polar Bears. They fish in pairs. They sit around and fish, through holes in the ice." Once I said this, we won. We had completed the scavenger hunt in 1 hour and 40 minutes. In Dawson's seven year of doing this, the record is 1 hour 38 minutes. After we won, we got to sit and relax while everyone else competed for 2nd and 3rd. The third team to arrive actually finished in second place, and the second team to arrive got third. The last team finished 2 hours and 27 seconds after we started. I really enjoyed every aspect of this scavenger hunt: Encrypting messages, decrypting messages, solving Sudoku and using maps to find your way around. The only not-so-great part was having to walk/run from building to building in the heat of the afternoon. Dawson knew it would be hot, so he offered to refill our water bottles while we solved puzzles. I know I'm really going to miss this class. It has been 1,000,000 times more fun and challenging than any high school math course I have taken. It's also really challenged me in every area we studied, making very math interesting for me. It has also exposed me to some amazing college level topic I can't wait to study. It's hard to believe that VSA is over in a week. I'm definitely going to miss being here. At 3:00 PM, Dawson released us, and we headed back to Hank to wait until Arête started. (There is no study hall on Friday, so we have free time instead.)
|My Self-Defense class picture|
We had another Arête showcase in the Rotunda today. Before we headed over, we took a group picture. Overall, I was more impressed with this Arête showcase than last time's. There were more groups performing (juggling and yoga were added,) and many of the performances were better than before. For example, the Improv group played a game where a group of three people act out a skit based on an audience member's chosen topic. Three other actors watched them perform, and covered their ears. Then the second group performed their version of the skit. It was fun how extremely different the two scenes were, even though they used the same motions. After the Arête showcase, we had free time until dinner.
Today's dinner was grilled chicken, quiche, potatoes and peas, plus all the usual stuff. (Burgers, hot dogs, fries, salad etc.) The quiche had a very rich texture, and the potatoes just melted in you mouth. This was one of the best dinners I have had a VSA. After dinner, there were various activities taking place throughout Hank from 7-9. I started on the 3rd floor (since I went to my room first) and made some edible architecture. I ended up spending all of the two hours building a socializing with the various students that came by and building. I made two different structures. One was made out of candy and toothpicks, and the other was made out of popsicle sticks with notches cut out of them. (There were essentially Lincoln Logs, but as popsicle sticks.) I spent most of my time with popsicle sticks, trying to make a roof for the popsicle stick house I made. I eventually came up with the optimal design after the house had fallen apart.
|My leaning tower of candy and toothpicks.|
|My popsicle stick house.|
Tomorrow is Saturday, so breakfast is at 9, and we have class from 10-12. We are doing two student lessons tomorrow, so it is a pretty easy day for me. Hopefully I get to be a Mission Holder this time, but we'll see. After lunch, we have extended SOFT time from 1-5. At 5:30 we have dinner, and afterwards we board buses to go to the movie theater. Once we get back, we had a proctor group meeting at 10:15, and lights out is at 12:00.