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The Tales of Nerdy Norm

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Keywords: animation, video production, stop motion, algebra, quadratic functions, voice over, digital storytelling
Subject(s): Algebra, Math
Grades 8 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: R C Edwards Middle School, Central, SC
Planned By: Traci Hedetniemi
Original Author: Traci Hedetniemi, Central
Objective: TSWBAT understand how a change in "a" or "c" in the standard form of a quadratic equation ax^2 + bx + c changes the graph of the resulting function.

Prerequisite Knowledge/Concepts: Understanding what standard form of a quadratic equation is; Basic understanding of the idea of a transformation to a graph; Understanding that the basic shape of a quadratic function is a parabola; Ability to graph a set of ordered pairs on a graph; Ability to create a table of values from a given function

1) Introduce the project concept. Students will be telling the story of "Nerdy Norm the Normal Parabola." Nerdy Norm is a parabola whose equation is y = x^2 on a typical/usual day. However, Norm's equation changes when his moods and/or location changes. Provide students with examples of Norm's various "moods" and their corresponding equations. For example, "High Nerdy Norm" could be the equation y = x^2 + 7 and "Nerdy Norm Flipped" could be the equation y = -x^2.
2) Have students take the various "moods" you give them and show graphically what happens. For each equation you give them (around 10 total), have students create a table of values (I suggest from x = -5 to x = 5 at a minimum). Then have students plot the ordered pairs to create a graph of the equations on one large coordinate plane. [It will be helpful for students to use different colors and create a key to their graph.]
3) Next, students should use the graph they created to write a story that details how and why Nerdy Norm's graph changed as his mood changed. You can have students write a story in paragraph form first or have students work directly with a storyboard format. Make it clear that the story should match what happens on the graph!
4) Students will use clay to create a model of Nerdy Norm - i.e. students will model the shape of a parabola out of clay.
5) Students will use a video camera to record "stop motion" shots of their parabola in each of the various transformations they graphed. Then, students will use stop motion animation software to create a video from these shots.
6) Students will create voice-over narration recordings of the stories they wrote detailing Nerdy Norm's various moods. Students will use video editing software to add their voice narration to their stop-motion video.
7) Students will present their video projects to the class.
This lesson is an adaption/extension of the Nerdy Norm activity created through the SC Department of Education Algebra I training workshops.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Social Studies - Have students include historical events as a context for Nerdy Norm's story.
Science - Have students write Nerdy Norm's story as he explores the moon or other planets and require details that connect to their properties.
ELA - Nerdy Norm's story could be written as he interacts with characters from a story or poem read in English class.
This activity can be extended to the exploration of other algebraic functions (exponential, absolute value, square root, etc.) as well as to the transformation of geometric shapes. Stop-motion video is a wonderful tool to illustrate mathematical change!
Materials: Mobile Labs, Video Cameras, Digital Voice Recorders, Microphones, Video Tools, Tripods, Batteries, Memory Cards, Cables, Headsets, Flash/USB Drives, Animation
Other Items: 1 Modeling Clay - various colors, $15 per 5lb each