Thursday, July 9, 2015

Wormholes and Tesseracts in the Classroom - Part 2

In Part A I looked at some inspiring ideas about teaching in the movie Interstellar. Here are some ideas for using some Interstellar content in the classroom.

Exploring Dimensions: whether you're doing lessons on 2D and 3D solids, or just having a discussion why we say "x-squared" and "x-cubed" but "x-to-the-fourth", it's time to bring out The Tesseract.  In the Interstellar version, it's an object that has spatial and time dimensions: as the main character Cooper moves through space, he's moving into different time "rooms".

"Time is represented here as a physical dimension"
Warning: SPOILER for the film!

My Year 7 students liked this, and were very fast on their internet devices to find more traditional mathematical representations of the tesseract (the hypercube) which made for a good discussion.

Permutations and Combinations: I haven't worked it out yet, but there's definitely a perms and combs activity to do with the CASE and TARS robots! Might link in well with a Quadrilaterals exploration too.

Watch CASE at work on Miller's Planet: 

Some good resources:

An exciting way to introduce circular motion:

A nice adjunct to the more classic and sedate circular motion sequences in my other all time favourite movie, "2001: A Space Odyssey".

And for something different, you may like to point your music teacher friends at this mini documentary about the making of the soundtrack:

Wormholes and Tesseracts in the Classroom - Part 1

"You have to go see the film Interstellar", I told my Year 12 class recently, "Maths saves the human race!"  They corrected me immediately:  "No Sir - that's not true, LOVE saved the human race".  Yeah - we have a lot of science fiction movie buffs in our school...

But quibbling aside, what a wonderful resource Christopher Nolan has given with this film. Here are a few highlights that inspired both my teaching and enriched the conversations in class.

Interstellar: Inspiration for Teachers

Need to describe the projection of 4 dimensions into 3 dimensions in under 30 seconds? This explanation of why a wormhole should be a sphere is astoundingly concise (start at 03:00)

Wow! Imagine if we could teach complex content this easily.

Probably the scariest conversation a maths/science teacher could ever hear takes place early in the film - a wake up call to all us! In a four minute sequence, Nolan describes the futility of assigning a single number to measure student success, text book wars and the battle we have on our hands to defend the scientific world view:

So why do I teach? In an astounding sequence, Cooper mumbles muses:
"We used to look up in the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."  
(sequence starts at 3:00)

We need more star gazing. If I can get even one student a year to decide to look at the stars, it's all been worth it.

Part 2: Curriculum links : ways to use Interstellar in your classroom.

(The videos are probably not going to be around for long ... watch them while you can!).