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Discussion: The Hispaniola Water Shortage tool
Topic: Good math lesson, applet could use some work
Related Item: http://mathforum.org/mathtools/tool/72/


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Subject:   Good math lesson, applet could use some work
Author: mmckelve
Date: Feb 4 2004
Hispaniola Activity:
http://mathforum.org/mathtools/tool.html?id=73&context=tool&new_id=72

It seems that Suzanne's class generally liked this applet and found it useful,
yet they still preferred to work the problem by hand.  More than one person
mentioned that the applet cleared up their misconceptions about the problem,
indicating that the description of the problem was vague or confusing.  This is
sometimes a big difficulty to overcome with word problems, and visualizations
like applets can help with that, as long as the interface is clean and makes
sense.

I really think this applet's interface could be a lot better.  The graphics are
ok--good enough for the activity, I suppose--and the controls were easy
enough to pick up on, but I did not like the chosen method for recording
actions.  I would like to see the applet list each of the possibilities for the
# of ounces between the 2 containers and highlight each one as it's reached.  It
could look something like the tables on the description page (<a
href=" http://mathforum.org/escotpow/print_puzzler.ehtml?puzzle=30 "> http://mathforum.org/escotpow/print_puzzler.ehtml?puzzle=30< ;/a>).
The textbox at the bottom is just not ideal for a visual representation of
what's going on.  Granted, the students can follow along on a sheet of paper,
and that's not a bad idea with the current applet, but it seems like it would be
more user-friendly if it had the feature built into it.  Alternatively, so
that the students are not just given the answers, they could mark each number in
the list as possible or impossible, and then click a button to check their
answers...  Something more than what's there would be nice.

This problem has great applications in mathematics, and has achieved a small
degree of fame due to its publicity in the movie Die Hard: With a Vengeance.
Addition and subtraction are obvious, but the concepts of modulus and remainder
can also be demonstrated here, though additional lessons would need to be
written around it, since those concepts will not necessarily readily present
themselves to the student.  Critical thinking skills can be developed with this
applet.  For example: discovering that 12 oz is not possible if the containers'
volumes only add up to 11 oz, and noticing the relationships between the
odd/even volumes and the possible volumes that can be created.

     --Michael--

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Posted for George Reese's C&I 336 class at the University of Illinois
http://www.mste.uiuc.edu/courses/ci336sp04

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