Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Class Challenge

I have a mission in life right now and it is for my entire calculus class to get the equation of the tangent line problem right on the AP test…it drives me nuts that some of them do that problem wrong EVERY TIME no matter how much I talk about it!

So, I came up with the idea of a class challenge.  This can really be applied to any math class, but it seems especially appropriate for an AP class.

I came up with this in the middle of the night when I seem to do some of my best thinking :)

So, I gave the class a very straightforward question - in my case - the first time I tried this I used this problem:

Find the equation of the tangent line to the curve y = (3x-2)^2 at the point where x = 0.

I told the class:  If everyone in the class gets this right, I will give the entire class 5 bonus points.  (To be honest I knew this wouldn't happen the first time I gave this challenge, but I am hopeful that some of the kids will put pressure on some of the other kids to LEARN HOW TO DO THIS!)

The next day, the kids really wanted to know if they got the extra credit…they definitely didn't - at least 4 kids got the question wrong.  I wondered if the ones that got it wrong would admit it, or just keep it to themselves.  It seemed to me, as I looked around the room, that the kids that got the question wrong knew it, and looked kind of sheepish about it.  A couple of them admitted it themselves, but it wasn't something that I shared.  I didn't tell the class who got it wrong or how many students got it wrong.

But, I'm definitely going to try this again in a couple of days.  I am hopeful that the class will be getting their bonus points soon!

Once we accomplish this task, we will move on to another type of problem.  Like maybe a tricky limit question that is actually a derivative in disguise.

I feel like this could be applied to other classes too, but I suppose you have to be careful.  I wouldn't want any students blamed for messing up everyone's extra credit.  However, in my class, the kids have all been together in honors math for awhile, and seem fine with it.  We'll see how it goes!

1 comment:

  1. I like this, but... just make sure they don't start a "witch-hunt" for (at least one of) their fellow students who got it wrong (thereby "costing" them their bonus points). SRSLY -- middle/high-school-age kids will do that sort of thing! Also, I recommend having them (individually) graph equations using free online tools like -- it helps them see the correspondence between the algebraic and geometric (IMHO).