I’m putting a call out to calculus teachers and calculus aficionados out there. I want to know how you transition to teaching integration, and why you cho0se to do it that way. And if you have any activities, investigations, etc., that you can send me, I’d love to have them (and post them here for other calculus teachers).
I’m not super pleased with, but I don’t hate, what I’m going to be doing tomorrow.
Here’s the deal. I just gave my last test on differentiation today, and tomorrow I’m transitioning to teach integration. I teach a regular (non AP) calculus class, so we can take our time. At the moment, I’m grappling with two things: (1) whether to teach anti-differentiation first and the notion of “area under the curve” second, or vice versa, and (2) how to make integration intuitive.
Last year, I transitioned by giving students a graph of and told them to find the shaded area. Those were my only instructions.
Some students made triangles, some students guestimated, some students made rectangles. I don’t remember all the different approaches. But then we had a discussion about how they estimated their areas, which then led to me transitioning to Riemann sums and a general introduction to the whole new unit. The thing I emphasized: “In all your previous math classes, you only learned how to find areas and volumes of silly little figures, like squares and cubes and maybe you remember a nonagon or cone. But what about crazy, strange, weird areas? Volumes of crazy, strange, weird figures? Did you ever wonder where the formula for the volume of a sphere come from? Calculus not only can answer questions about position, velocity, and acceleration, and how to maximize and minimize quantities, but it can do all this other stuff too.”
This year I’m not going to talk about areas under curves (yet). I’m going to start with two days of practicing antidifferentiation. I’m not going to say much to transition to this new material except to say that derivatives were the first part of the course and antiderivatives will be the second. And that we’ll soon be able to do a lot with them, like we found out we could with differentiation… Then I’m going to introduce the idea of the “opposite of differentiation” and spend the entire period having students build their intuition.
First, they’re going to do a matching game in pairs (PDF). We’ll then quickly debrief, but not really go into depth about any question.
Second, they’re going to work in a different set of pairs on just playing around with finding the antiderivative, by intuition and guess and check. I want them to learn to think through a problem. So I typed up what goes through my head when I try to do an antiderivative.
And then I’m letting them loose on a set of problems which should hopefully introduce them to some basic integration rules (PDF). I think it’ll take the whole period. And we’ll spend the next day debriefing. I want them to struggle through integration now. I want them to see why instead of memorize the power rule. I anticipate it to be kind of hellish for them; they — like most students — want formulaic ways to do calculus.
But just as I struggled to hone my students intuition (see my previous blog post) for differention, I wanted to make something similar for integration.
We’ll see what happens tomorrow.