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Ferris Wheel: Trigonometric Functions presented by Tiffany Utoft

October 24, 2013

On October 6th, in the New York City public library, I had the opportunity to model a mathematics lesson aligned to the Common Core State Standards to a room full of excited math educators. The event – The Common Core Teacher Institute – was hosted by NBC News and the Teaching Channel in order to help teachers across the country better understand what the new standards will mean for classroom instruction.

As a high school mathematics teacher, this shift was a real fear of mine: What were the Common Core State Standards? Would they be too challenging for my students? What supports would be available to help me make these shifts in my classroom?  As I’ve put them into practice in my own classroom and observed other teachers implement them, I’ve come to believe that they really do build the key competencies and skills – such as the ability to think critically and use reasoning skills – that students need to move to the next level. And for the first time, I feel that I have a clearly articulated framework to guide my practice, and an understanding of what needs to happen in the grades prior so students can master high-level content in my classroom.

At the event in New York, the lesson I presented was titled “Ferris Wheel.” In the lesson, students model how a trigonometric function describes the relationship of a Ferris wheel rider as the wheel spins at a constant rate with relationship to the height of the rider from the ground. The framework and mathematical activities I use are taken from the Math Design Collaborative (MDC), a set of instructional tools designed with the Common Core in mind. In planning it, I also drew on the Instructional Practice Guide for best practices related to instruction.  

If you teach high school math, I encourage you to watch it. It illustrates several fundamental shifts math educators must make in order to be aligned with the Common Core. My lesson plan and reflections are also available on the Teaching Channel.

 I hope that other educators, principals and student supporters also find value in these tools and in the other Common Core Teacher Institute videos. I urge you to interact with them and take the Common Core Challenge!

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