Wonderful Workshops: Math

Monday, October 3, 2016, was a momentous day for me. It was the first time I drove all by myself, and I drove to the Scientesses workshop. After some long and hard decision making, I chose the theme of this workshop to be math. It was hard for me to decide on math because I couldn’t really think of any projects that would be very “hands-on.” I eventually found three activities that in my opinion, ended up turning out well.

Normally, at the end of each workshop I will read the girls a story about a famous woman in that field. I decided to change this up, however, because after flipping through my book, “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World”, I found so many mathematicians that I couldn’t pick just one. I opened the class with a reading about Hypatia, shared information about Emmy Noether halfway through, and ended with the story of Katherine Johnson. For the last one, I let the girls choose which women they wanted based on the color of the book page.

After learning about Hypatia, I gave the girls the task of completing the magic triangle. Using the number 1-6, once and only once, they needed to make each side of the triangle add up to be 9. I was shocked and proud to see one girl get it within no more than 2 minutes. Most of the girls got it pretty quickly, but for some I had to give hints. I told them because they need to use three number on a side, any combination of 5,4, or 6 should not be together on a side because the sum will already exceed 9.Here’s the awesome blog where I found the activity: http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2016/04/magic-triangle.html

Our second activity was solving the “T” puzzle. I gave the girls four very different shapes that they had to turn into a T. Each piece I gave through a wrench in what they thought would be the solution. After a few minutes, I was about to give a hint, but then I saw that a girl got the answer. The girls around her table followed her lead and also “solved” the puzzle. The other table, however, still needed a hint. I told them that they should not try to fit another piece in the notch piece. It took a little time, but with my assistance, they eventually made the T. I got the “T” puzzle from the same blog as the magic triangle: http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2015/07/t-puzzle.html

At this point, I told the girls about Emmy Noether, a woman who Einstein called “the most significant mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.” She made groundbreaking discoveries in theoretical physics and abstract algebra. You can read more about Emmy in the Scientist Spotlight section: https://scientesses.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/scientist-spotlight-emmy-noether/

562773065_1012371Once we were enlightened about Emmy, I decided we had time for the last project: the aluminum foil boats. The connection to math was finding the volume of the boats and how many pen caps (I forgot the pennies) the boats could fit without sinking. Some girls made regular rectangular boats, but some girls also made what looked like canoes. Many of them wanted to put sails on their boats but I said since we are indoors and lacking wind, it probably wouldn’t be the best use of tin foil and time. Instead of sails some girls made little people or furniture to put in their ships.

Even though the boats were different shapes, I still used the length x width x height formula for volume because it was just easier in the interest of time. Since many of the measurements turned out to be decimals, I did the volume calculations myself and told the girls the answer to remember for when we tested the boats. It turned out that all the boats held the eight pen caps I had. All the girls were very impressed with their creations and were going to try to make more boats when they got home.  I am disappointed, however, that we couldn’t truly test the boats due to the fact I forgot all the pennies but I still think everyone really enjoyed the activity.

This math workshop proved to be more successful than I anticipated. I was very happy and proud when I saw how quickly many of the girls solved the “brain-teasers.” I realized how lucky I am that the girls attending my workshops are truly there because they enjoy STEM, and not because their parents sent them. I am excited to see what surprises and innovations these next three workshops bring.

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