Students Study Roller Coaster Science

On Friday, November 13, the 6th graders had an opportunity to take a trip to Yomiuri Land, an amusement park in Fuchu, as part of their study of roller coasters in Science 6.

Students spent the day gathering different types of data, which they later used to calculate the coaster’s velocity, potential energy and kinetic energy as it moves throughout its course. Relating these mathematical concepts to real-world, practical experiences is an excellent way to demonstrate the value of what the students have been learning. Our 6th graders were also able to gather some more qualitative data by actually experiencing the rides themselves.

It was a great day of “science in action” and hands-on experience, where students were able to see and feel the concepts we are discussing in class. And…it was also lots of fun! (Jessica Gould, MS Teacher)

Exploding Dots: Thinking Outside the Box in Math

James Tanton, a mathematician and educator, visited ASIJ on February 26th. During his visit, James taught High School students and teachers his theories on how to perform mathematical processes. High School junior, Siddharth Ray, shares the experience with us:

When I entered my first period math classroom, I could immediately feel the energy given by James Tanton to the rest of the room. As it was a first period class, I never imagined that he would be able to sustain this type of energy for the rest of the period.

Mr. Tanton started by talking about how addition is taught and how it should be done: from left to right (the same way that we do our reading) instead of right to left. He went on to talk about subtraction, multiplication and division using his “exploding dot method,” which used a left-to-right approach as opposed to the conventional ways of doing arithmetic. It was interesting, but given that we were calculus students who had just started exploring series and sequences, we thought it was something trivial.

He later showed how his method could be used to find solutions to polynomial division, which was something that seemed slightly more relevant to the class. Slowly but surely, he went through all levels of mathematics using his “exploding dots method,” and he ended by showing how dividing 1 by (1-x) (using his exploding dots method) would result in 1+x+x^2+… one of the most common series that exists. Mr. Tanton also showed us that 1/(1-x-x^2) would result in coefficients derived from the Fibonacci sequence. At this point, we had gone all the way from basic arithmetic to calculus-level mathematics, all using his unique “exploding dots method.” It was a pretty long journey through a 75-minute class!

What James Tanton taught me was more than just how to add, subtract, multiply and divide with his cool “exploding dot” method; he taught me the importance of thinking outside of the box. From the beginning of his lecture, he challenged the norm and made us question why we were doing what we did. “Why do we do addition, subtraction and multiplication from right to left when humans read from left to right? Let’s do these operations from left to right.” He showed us how to do well-known operations in a unique and easy way that helped tie in more complex ideas. Simple arithmetic, different bases (base-2, base-6, etc.), polynomial operations and Taylor series were all brought together using his “exploding dots and boxes.”

Finding these connections, as Tanton showed, can help with endeavors into more difficult levels of mathematics. A link between something as simple as division and something as excruciatingly difficult as Taylor series help make the complicated bits more bearable. To top all of this off, Mr. Tanton showed how cool math could be. Connecting basic division with calculus material? Never in my wildest could I have imagined such a strong connection between those two seemingly distant concepts. Thanks to Mr. Tanton, math just became 100 times cooler. (Siddharth Ray, grade 11)

You can visit James Tanton’s website here: Thinking Mathematics!

Middle School Brain Bowl at the Kanto Plain Tournament

ASIJ middle school Brain Bowl team members showed their strength during the annual Kanto Plain Tournament held at Aoba Japan International School on Wednesday, February 11th. While peers sat in classes and studied English, math and science, this group answered questions on those topics plus: general knowledge, art, music, history, sports and current events, just to name a few.

The first round was held at tables where team members could consult each other about the answers. The second round involved buzzers and no consultation. The third round included identifying national anthems, distorted countries and peculiar animals, as well as solving rebus puzzles and nerdy questions.

At lunch time, the kids enjoyed hanging out on the field on a warm winter’s day. All in all, a fun time was had by everyone. New friends were made and older friendships solidified.

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Congratulations to the entire middle school Brain Bowl team. The members were: Reuben Fuchs, Leah Gesling (4th place team), Noah Joroff, Brandon LaBarge, Yoojin Lee, Anirudh Kumar (2nd place team) and Everett Xu (1st place team). (Anita Gesling, MS Japanese)

Hour of Code at ASIJ

During the week of December 8, ASIJ’s elementary students participated in Hour of Code, a global movement to introduce students to programming languages. During Computer Science Education Week 2014 and the first anniversary of the Hour of Code millions of people learnt new skills across 180 countries.

DSC_7783Kindergarteners explored code basics with BeeBots, programming them to move from one location to another.  Once Kindergarteners had the gist of programming the BeeBot they embraced an abstract challenge to code on the BeeBot iPad app.

First and second graders wrote code for their classmates who then dutifully, physically followed the code written for them. Once students mastered the reading and writing of basic code directions they began programming an animated figure using the LightBot 2014 app on their iPads. Using simple directions, they wrote codes of increasing complexity to guide the LightBot figure around different shaped courses. As the challenges increased in difficulty, students rallied together to pitch ideas and test theories, and ultimately helped each other learn the code to program their bots.

Third and fourth graders explored code by programming games in Hopscotch or programming Elsa from this year’s much-watched animated film, Frozen. Again, as students encountered the increasing levels of difficulty they banded together to troubleshoot and test ideas. Watching students problem solve and collaborate was an unexpected, yet notable, outcome of their participation in Hour of Code.

Fifth graders investigated code through MIT’s Scratch and Code Studio’s Make a Flappy Game. The fifth graders demonstrated an intensity of focus, curiosity, enjoyment and teamwork as they developed their coding projects.

The Hour of Code was a big hit with students and it introduced them to code while providing opportunities for collaboration, authentic problem solving, finding patterns, applying logic, generating and testing theories, and exploring the joys of creating games that others can play.

A special thanks to Vera Adams and Judy Astridge who pioneered Hour of Code last year and provided both the inspiration and training that launched these activities in the elementary school. Tracey Reed (ES Information Technology Coach)