The Marshmallow Test For Solar Cookers

Nothing like a burned marshmellow at 10:00 am

We are making cookers.  So why not cook something.  After all we are trying to make mathematics useful, and a project is never complete until we eat something.  In this case I started out small.  We cooked marshmallows.  The winning cooker was actually able to melt every marshmallow and as long as the wind stayed down and the box set stable for more than a couple of minutes. The cooker actually turned the marshmallows to charcoal.  Eggs might be in the plan for next year.

A note to self for the future, I need to make sure students create a platform that holds cooking material in the focus.  We were using wires and poking holes everywhere to get marshmallows to stay.  What I need for next year is to make them create a platform that will hold a small dish and a medium cracked egg.  This might be tough for the groups in the future, but I know it can be done.

This might be the funnest math project I have done with students.  I will have to incorporate more of these. . . but as always it is tough to give up 8 days that really do very little to prepare students for that ACT or state test . . . and I hate to say it.  It does very little to help them prepare  for success in college mathematics.  Of course I could be wrong.  Maybe there is a research project that shows that these kinds of projects help.  I know they help in sparking a students imagination.  They do not help to get the student a 30 ACT score in math.  And they do not help a student set through a 60 minute lecture five days a weak in calculus.  After all this project only addresses one of the sixty questions on the ACT.  Or one question on a college final exam.  The question on the exam might be locate the focus with respect to the vertex of the parabolic curve f(x) = (1/12)x^2.  Or this classic from the virtual math lab at West Texas A & M University.

xample 1: Find the coordinates of the vertex of example 1a.  Without graphing, determine if the vertex is the maximum or minimum point of the quadratic function.

My interesting and relevant project might be hamstringing my entire math curriculum at Arapahoe.

Just some thoughts to feed the fire.  Next up  why I feel I should teach the way I do.


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