High School Mathematics-Physics SMILE Meeting
1997-2006 Academic Years
Teaching References

28 April 1998 Renee Allen [Wirth School]
She showed posters in which 8th Grade science students had been assigned a chemical Element, and had prepared a report and poster on that element. The elements mentioned were Gallium [Ga], Phosphorus [P], Barium [Ba], Silver [Ag], and Copper [Cu].

Comment by PJ: There is an excellent book on the elements:

16 March 1999: Potentially interesting Web sites:

07 December 1999: Bill Colson (Morgan Park HS)
read some excerpts from Education Week, Nov 24, 1999, Setting the Record Straight, http://www.edweek.org/ew/vol-19/13thiswk.htm pointing out the frequent misconceptions people have about---for example---our solar system. When answering the question: Why is earth hotter in summer and colder in winter? -- people would usually state that earth was closer to the sun in summer and farther away in winter. Of course, the opposite is true. And what about the southern latitudes!? Interesting stuff, and reminding us of the frequent indifference people have for things scientific/technical. We have our work cut out for us!

01 February 2000: Bill Colson (Morgan Park HS)
held up a book: Two-Fisted Science, an historical reference (ISBN 0-9660106-04 Ottaviari et al), and mentioned Feynman among others. Holding up another book, The Kingdom of Infinite Numbers (ISBN 0-7167-3388-9, Benjamin Bunch), Bill read from a piece by W.H. Auden - inspiring!

11 April 2000: Bill Colson (Morgan Park HS)
called our attention to two math books: Tour of the Calculus by David Berlinski [Vantage Books/Random House, ISBN 0-679-42645-0, Feb 1997] and a more recent book by the same author: Advent of the Algorithm. He passed them around and noted that they were written for the intelligent layperson. They elicit the same sort of insight and enjoyment as achieved more frequently these days in science by other successful authors. Thanks, Bill!

02 May 2000: Bill Colson (Morgan Park HS)
handed out an article from the Chicago Reader, from the pages of the Mad Scientist, Spring, 1999, Zine-O-File, and an excerpt from Science Runs Amok? Time Travel - A Medical Nightmare? by Robert Vanderwoude. It points out the biological consequences of time travel, among them being that the antibiotic resistant microbes in time travelers of today could be transferred to people of, say, the 1950s. Also, an article "How Big Are the Planets," Parade Magazine, April 30, 2000, Marilyn Vos Savant -- giving an idea of scale. Use and Keep these in your file!

07 November 2000 Bill Colson (Morgan Park HS)
started off with a funny story about Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, who were out camping in the wilderness. The view of the night sky was magnificent, and Holmes wondered how one could explain it. Watson responded that the stars at one time might have been explained as holes in the celestial sphere. Or others might see the stars as outlining the shapes of various animals. More recently the big bang theory attempts to explain the origins of the stars. But Holmes appears impatient with Watson, who then asks what Holmes thinks. Holmes responds with, "I deduce that someone has stolen our tent!" Hah!

Bill passed out copies of a Chicago Tribune newspaper article (Nov 2, 2000) titled Making Science Accessible, Fun Defies the Laws of Physics. He also discussed the following books

It was interesting to see how our insight has changed.

23 January 2001 Bill Colson (Morgan Park HS)

23 January 2001 Frana Allen (K-8 Special Education, Skinner School)
presented a set of experiments, from the following sources:

  1. #648: Easy Chemistry (Grades 4-8), published by Teacher Created Materials, Inc. and available for $11.95 at The Teachers Store: http://www.teachercreated.com.
  2. Kitchen Chemistry, published by Carson-Dellosa Publications and available from http://www.chemsoc.org/networks/learnnet/kitchenchemistry/.
Here is a list of titles of the experiments:
  1. Pile It Higher [Ref I, p 37]. Illustrate surface tension with droplets of water and vegetable oil.
  2. Blow It Up [Ref I, p 44]. Illustrate chemical change with soda, vinegar, a bottle, and a balloon.
  3. Just the Facts [Ref I, p 56] Chemicals are everywhere.
  4. Human Body [Ref I, p 57] Illustrate inhaling and exhaling with balloons and water.
  5. Art [Ref I, p 75] Separation of a solution of several different food colorings with a paper towel.
  6. Music [Ref I, p. 76]  Vibrating bottles partially filled with water produce musical sounds.
  7. Chemical Reactions [Ref II p 4] Baking soda and vinegar in a cup
  8. Separating Solutions [Ref II p 6]  How can you separate a solution of salt and water?
  9. Making a Fizzler [Ref II p 7] Mixing Alka-Seltzer™ and water.
  10. Mixing Water, Oil, and Vinegar [Ref II p 11] What happens when you mix them?
  11. Making Paste [Ref II p 16] Mix water and corn starch in clear plastic cups.
  12. Making Spaghetti Dance [Ref II p 20] Mix raw spaghetti with vinegar and baking soda.
  13. Mystery Powders [Ref II p 31] Use flour, vinegar, corn starch, baking soda, and confectioner's sugar.
  14. Mixing Your Own Colors [Ref II p 33] Mix red, yellow, and blue food coloring with water in various proportions.

Finally, she presented materials on magnets, from the source FS-83129: Physical Sciences.

23 January 2001 Arlyn VanEk (Illiana Christian HS)
mentioned that ESPN Cable Network broadcasts the series SportsFigures  [commercial-free Cable in the Classroom Programs] on ESPN2 on Monday mornings at 5:30 am [EST]!.  SportsFigures is aimed at teaching math and physics concepts through practical applications in sports, utilizing appearances by both amateur and professional athletes who help illustrate the different math or physics concepts.  Details may be found on the website http://sportsfigures.espn.com/.  Here are the titles of the 14 lessons:

  1. Newton's EarthQuake:  Newton's 3 laws of motion
  2. Golf is a Drag:  Aerodynamic drag, Magnus effect
  3. Inline Inertia:  Weight, mass, inertia 
  4. The Trig to Soccer:  Angle measurement, right-triangle trigonometry
  5. Elastic Racquet:  Elastic Energy
  6. The Sounds of Summer:  Velocity, speed of sound, speed of light
  7. Breaking Energy:  Energy, Joules of Energy
  8. Bouncing Basketballs:  Coefficient of rebound, conservation of energy
  9. That Mu You Do:  Friction
  10. Running with Momentum:  Conversion of momentum, vectors
  11. Big Air Rules:  Projectile motion, gravity
  12. Relaxing with Impulse:  Impulse, momentum, Newton's second law
  13. Boarding School:  Conservation of energy
  14. Tracking Speed:  Speed and Acceleration

He showed a video of lesson #11, which posed the question:  How long does Vince Carter stay in the air?  Guesses from observers ranged from 4 to 40 seconds, but a count of the video frames showed that his "flight time" was less than one second.  Also, if you stay in the air twice as long, your center of mass moves four times as high!  

27 February 2001 Bill Colson (Morgan Park HS, Math)
touted and passed around the book Rube Goldberg Inventions by Maynard Frank Wolfe [Simon & Schuster 2000] ISBN 0-684-86779-9. There was a recent article about a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest in the 26 February 2001 Chicago Tribunehttp://www.chicagotribune.com/.

You could almost hear the wheels turning as the small group of high school students huddled and talked and tinkered with their project. But that was the problem -- the wheels weren't turning -- and their entry in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest wasn't ...

14 March 2001 Betty Roombos (Gordon Tech HS, Physics)
handed out copies of a worksheet activity entitled Exploring Life Science:  Measuring Liquid Volume with a Graduated Cylinder.

05 March 2002: Bill Colson (Morgan Park HS Math) -- Probability
began by criticizing the order of topics in his beginning algebra textbook; Algebra I [http://www.hrw.com/math/maalg1/index.htm] by Schultz, Kennedy, Ellis, and Hollewell, [Holt Rinehart Wilson 2001; ISBN 0-03-052218-8], in that "experimental probability" is introduced in Chapter 4, but "theoretical probability" is postponed until Chapter 13.  Since theoretical probability is covered in the first semester syllabus and the mid-year Case Exam, it is unfortunate that this textbook was chosen for the course.

Bill then talked about the book Dueling Idiots and Other Probability Puzzlers by Paul J Nahin [Princeton U Press 2000: ISBN 0-691-00779-1].  In particular, he discussed the following problem that was appeared in the book:

In order to make subjects more likely to answer a certain Sensitive or Embarrassing Question, which should be answered "Yes" or "No", a group of 10000 subjects was given instructions to flip a coin. If the coin came up "Tails", they were to answer the Sensitive question (with a "Yes"  or a "No"). If it came up "Heads", they were to flip the coin again, and answer a different question: "Did the coin show heads on the second try?" (with a "Yes"  or a " No"). All answers were then put inside a box, and analyzed. The result showed 6230 "Yes" answers, and 3770 "No" answers. What were the answers to the embarrassing question?

Because there is an equal probability of Heads or Tails, about 5000 people answered the sensitive question, and 5000 answered the "second flip" question. The answers for the second flip question should be about 2500 "Yes" and 2500 "No". We subtract these from the original tabulations to learn that about 3700 answered "Yes" to the original question, versus 1270 "No". Unfortunately, there was no mention of uncertainty or accuracy of these numbers!

This is probably a very puzzling and exciting book, Bill!/

12 September 2002: Bill Colson (Morgan Park HS Mathematics) Book Reports
Bill passed around a catalog of "short and simple" books originally published by Wooden Books [Welsh Publishers], and available in the US through Bas Bleu Booksellers: http://www.basbleu.com/.  [Note that "bas bleu" means "blue stocking" in literal French or "literary woman" colloquially.] Check their online catalog under Math-Science for the following titles: The Riddle of the Compass; Conned Again, Watson!; The Road to Ubar; Nightwatch; Mauve; Beethoven's Hair; Innumeracy; A Primate's Memoir; Medusa and the Snail; Sacred Geometry.  Other interesting titles include these:  Stonehenge; Platonic and Aristotelian Solids; A Little Book of Coincidences.  Here is the mailing address of the company: 

Bas Bleu Booksellers
518 Means Street, NW
Atlanta GA 30318
1 - 800 - 433-1155
Bill also touted a book that presented ideas in math and science in comic-strip form:
Imagination Rocket
Brian Clopper, editor
Behemoth Books 2002, 122 pages, $9.95
ISBN 0-9700659-2-2
For a review of this book see http://www.mindspring.com/~johannadc/previews/0204.html.  It contains a description of the Birthday Problem, among other things.  Porter Johnson stated the birthday problem
With N people in the room, what is the probability that two were born on the same day and month (but not necessarily the same year)?
The surprising answer to this question is that, for N of around 30, it is very likely that there will be birthday matches. Here are some typical numbers:
Number of People     Probability
20 .41
22 .48
24 .51
26 .60
28 .65
30 .71
We looked for identical birth dates with 27 people in the room, and did not find any, although the probability of a match is about 0.63. Perhaps, some of us are simply too old to have birthdays any more!  Thanks for the info, Bill!

19 November 2002

06 May 2003
Earl also called attention to the Local Physics Alliance of Michiana Physics Teachers, which meets regularly in South Bend, Indiana.  For details contact Mike McFarland [telephone:  1- 574 - 631-7057 or e-mail: mcfarla@nd.edu].  Also, the website for the Indiana Section of the AAPT is http://www.inaapt.org/.

02 December 2003: John Bozovsky [Chicago Discovery Academy at Bowen  HS, physics]     Physics in the Film Clips
first posed the following questions:

Q1:  What happens when two bullets collide in mid-air with equal and opposite speeds?
Q2Can you pick yourself up by pulling on your bootstraps (or shoe tops, or "whatever")?  If so, how?

Ever alert to the presentation and display of concepts of physics in entertainment media, John showed us some film snippets that provide "Hollywood" answers to these basic questions.

Why is it that life seems more "real" in the movies than in everyday life?  We enjoyed this novel approach to teaching physics, John!

09 December 2003: Deborah Koolbeck [Chicago Academy of Arts HS, physics]   discussed plans for assembling resources and services targeted specifically for high school mathematics and science teachers who are unable to obtain basic instructional support --- especially teachers in the Chicago Public School system.  These programs would be sponsored by the newly created Outreach Program Committee at Fermilab, under the guidance of its head, Dr. Chris White. [Note:  Chris is a full-time Physics faculty member at IIT,  winner of the 2002 IIT Excellence in Teaching Award, a superb phenomenological physics teacher, and a true friend and strong supporter of the SMILE program]!  The first step of this outreach program is to make an inventory of the most urgent needs of teachers, and to determine what resources can be obtained to meet some of these needs.  Specifically, Deb K [wearing her "other hat" of outreach coordinator at Fermilab] passed around a  preliminary questionnaire to survey certain specific needs of High School SMILE participants.  Fermilab has been able to obtain limited, precious resources that are specifically earmarked for Outreach. They want to have the greatest impact in providing significant, timely assistance to address the most urgent needs of beleaguered, stalwart mathematics/science teachers in local schools. By filling out and commenting upon a preliminary questionnaire, SMILE participants are serving as a vital focus group to improve the questionnaire itself, as well as to focus it upon the needs of the schools and the possibilities of developing an outreach program to address them.  Here are some of the issues in which they might be able to help you:

Thanks, Deb! You may also contact Deborah Koolbeck directly at her Email address:  koolbeck@fnal.gov. We look forward to working with you and Chris on these very exciting developments! 

04 May 2004: Leticia Rodriguez [Peck Elementary School] and Bud Schultz [Aurora West HS, physics]           Copernic Agent
Leticia and Bud touted the use of the Copernic Agent Basic search engine:  http://www.copernic.com/en/products/agent/basic.html. This software package, which requires only 8 kB of memory, can be down-loaded for free.  Its features include automatically combining the results from many search engines, producing a lists of results for each search, providing more convenient follow-up searches within these lists.  They tried, without success, to show us a video, The Lightning Story.  For a similar exhibition, see the National Geographic page Lightning:  The Shocking Storyhttp://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/lightning-profile.html. Check out this new freeware! Thanks for telling us about it, Leticia and Bud!

14 December 2004: Bill Colson called attention to the Extreme Geek online catalog [http://www.x-tremegeek.com/], which lists robot kits, computer accessories, and especially "physics toys".  Roy Coleman mentioned the website http://www.computergeek.com/   which contains similar items, as well as T-shirts with inscriptions for the physics-minded, such as "What is the speed of Dark?"

25 January 2005: Don Kanner told us that the Science Channel  [available on digital cable] has been showing the classic experimental science program Ask Mr Wizard, featuring Don HerbertMr Wizard personally kindled interest in science in a generation of youngsters.  Here is a personal testimonial by Geoff Fox, excerpted from the website http://www.geofffox.com/?s=mr.+wizard:

"I stumbled onto it. Who knew? The Science Channel is running back-to-back episodes of "Ask Mr. Wizard," starring Don Herbert. These are the original episodes from NBC in living black and white. It's Mr. Wizard, in a white shirt, sleeves rolled nearly to his elbows, thin tie tucked into the waistband of his pants. The girl assistant looks like a 14 year old June Cleaver. I don't remember individual episodes, but the whole concept is totally familiar. I loved these shows while I was growing up. Mr Wizard and a seemingly random kid, most often with a 'New Yawk' accent. Right now, they are demonstrating how the boiling point of water changes as the pressure changes. This is something I already knew - and now I totally understand it. Really - I've learned more about this from Mr. Wizard than any of my college level courses. Between shows, Mr. Wizard himself has shown up to explain what they were doing. Yes, he's an old guy now. But he looks great and seems healthy.  I wonder if he knows the effect he's had on me and a zillion other children of the 50s?"

25 January 2005: Earl Zwicker called attention to an article A Microscope from Flatland, that permits biologists to view details smaller than a wavelength of light in ordinary cells without an electron microscope.  The article appears on the American Physical Society [APS] website: http://focus.aps.org/story/v15/st3.

25 January 2005: Bill Colson [Morgan Park HS, mathematics]           Idea for School Development 
Bill  passed around information concerning a Science Fair Workshop at Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, IL on 30 April 2005. It contained some good ideas applicable in school development programs, which will be required throughout the system next year.

Bill also asked us to identify the following objects:

A million Watt Microphone is a ................ Megaphone
A 2000 pound Mockingbird is a ................ Kilomockingbird

Thanks, Bill!

26 April 2005: Bud Schultz [Aurora West HS, physics] called attention to the website for the New York State Regents Exams, http://www.regentsprep.org/, which contain a wide variety of practice problems. It would be valuable for students preparing for ACT and SAT exams, to get practice in ferreting out the answers to multiple choice questions.

10 May 2005: Bud Schultz illustrated how to find Powerpoint™ lessons using the usual search engines, by searching for, say, hubble + ppt. The following presentation, along with many others, appeared: Collisions in Space:  http://www.astro.umd.edu/~chris/Teaching/ASTR220_Spring_2003/astr220_spring_2003.html and A Brief History of Cosmology: http://www.astro.umd.edu/~miller/teaching/astr422/lecture02.pdf. Caution:  Powerpoint files, which are of the form *.ppt, are often very large, and require a fast browser for viewing.

Thanks for the info and ideas, Bud!

21 March 2006: Chris Etapa (Gunsalaus Academy)                       Information on a low-cost MSSE Program
is enrolled in a Master of Science in Science Education degree program at De Paul University. A new group will be admitted into that program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.  For more information on the program see the following website:   http://csh.depaul.edu/academics/graduate/stem-studies/Pages/default.aspx.  The degree program requires 12 courses, with 1 course per academic year  term, and 2 short courses in the summer. Thanks, Chris