Last February I was fortunate to speak at a CTA Good Teaching Conference in San Jose, California. I was scheduled to speak on Sunday morning, so on Saturday morning I attended a session on teacher driven change. The presentation explained how teachers had implemented projects to improve their schools and their teaching. In the back of my mind, I had been thinking of a project but lacked the funds to implement, so listening to these teachers, I began to imagine bringing these racing simulators to my school to help students use math in a real live context.
HiperMath is the brainchild of Craig Reisgen who has used this program in many schools in Southern California. At one time, the program costs were covered under a grant through San Bernardino Valley College. When I had first contacted him a year ago, he informed me that option was no longer available and so I put this idea on the back burner and in San Jose it was suddenly in the fore front.
To make a long story very short, I applied for a grant, received it and today my racing simulators were delivered to my school and the 5 days of training began.
The program is online (www.hipermath.com) and students design car engines to try and create the fastest cars that they will race in the simulator on a racetrack. To earn a place at the simulator, they need points, which they get by doing some math (Come on, you knew there had to be math here.) This is the kind of math I really like, sneaky math. The kind of math that you do without realizing that you are doing math until you finish because you are having so much fun.
I am not knowledgeable about engines (I know how to put the key in the ignition and turn one on, that is my extent), but the program is easy to use, and EVEN I was creating an engine with those long mathematical formulas. I confess, I haven’t been on the simulator yet, it was very hot today and I had a long dress on and I didn’t want to hike it up, but tomorrow is another day.
Students worked on integers today eagerly (no, really, they did 40-50 problems during the class period) to earn their spot and then each student was allowed 3 times to race before they went back to math again. Tomorrow they are working on exponents and ordering rational numbers. There are so many different concepts of math included and Craig and I spoke about maybe adding some others,
This revealed some exceptional abilities about students. Some students began building their engines without any help (these are 8th graders, and the formulas are college level), others needed some help but were not afraid to jump in and try. Everyone was eager and excited, and I smiled so much I was exhausted by the end of the day. A good day. One of the best.
One of our teachers experiencing the race. Teachers had fun as well.