And Calculus For All

12/14/2008 11:35:00 pm

When I returned to work after 10 weeks of parental leave I wanted to find a way to measure how well my AP Calculus students had learned and understood what a derivative was. So, the day I returned to class I challenged them to create a commercial that educates: What is a derivative?

Some of the parameters they have are:

  • The video must educate people who know nothing about calculus.
  • The video must be published on YouTube.
  • Students may work in teams of up to 3 people.
  • No images of students faces. Masks or other methods of obscuring their identities may be used.
  • No algebra.
  • Maximum video length: 30 seconds.
  • Include as many different descriptions as possible in the time allowed.

The way we're doing this is I have published a video to YouTube describing the assignment and extended it as a challenge to the entire math community on YouTube. Students will "hand in" their commercials as video replies to mine.

I'm hoping other people in the math community on YouTube reply to the challenge. It will go a long way to adding another layer of authenticity to the assignment and create a more meaningful reason than "marks" to create high quality content: social credit.

Social credit is a powerful motivational force in the lives of teens; a force that hasn't fully been tapped in educational circles. It's behind the outstanding work some of my students do on their class blogs. I'm trying to be more deliberate about accessing that potential in new ways this year.

The video has just been published to the AP Calculus 2008 blog. The students commercials should be published by Friday morning.

If you have a moment, head over to their blog and leave them a comment telling them you're looking forward to their commercials. It'll help make real their sense of audience and perhaps encourage them to do their very best before they hit the publish button on their videos.

Calculus Commercial Seed Video

Photo Credit: Excuse Me Ma'm... by flickr user nobleignoble

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  1. I have been following along on your blog for a month or so now, and your Calculus assignment caught my attention. I have tried to get my Physics and Applied Math classes to do some video assignments, but I set them up as bonus type of things. So far, just a lot of talk and not much action. I am interested in seeing your kids' final results.

    One question though. I am wondering why you chose youtube over teachertube. Unfortunately youtube is blocked at school and I am imagining that other schools are in the same boat. Teacher tube is not though…. How many other schools block youtube and how did you get it "unblocked"?

  2. The final vids (3 of them; it's a small class working in groups) should be published by the end of the week. We'll be showcasing them in class on Friday so I imagine they'll be up on YouTube by late Thursday night ... might even be early Fri morning. ;-)

    I chose YouTube for three reasons:

    (1) That's where the kids go for video. They feel comfortable there and have their own accounts from which they publish video outside of school. This allows me to model some digital ethics vis a vis what do you and what don't you publish on YouTube.

    (2) That's where all the people are. There is a significant math community on YouTube and I am hoping to draw their attention and perhaps participation which would add value to the assignment in terms of authenticity and audience.

    (3) Kids think TeacherTube is for teachers, not them. That detracts somewhat from the value added by publishing publicly online.

    As for YouTube being blocked at school, it is and it isn't. Our SD supports two different proxy servers. The one the kids use blocks YouTube, the other one doesn't and staff can access it with the help of our tech when we want to make use of it in the classroom.