Mario’s Parabola… Or is it? (with Update)

Most of the time my A.D.D. is a huge pain, but tonight it actually gave me a cool idea. Well, sorta cool. Maybe not cool at all. I dunno – you make the call after you read this and let me know if I’m way off base.

I’d shown a Dan Meyer video today (short and sweet video here). As usual, I didn’t close out the tab after I showed it (yes, Joelle, I know I have a problem). Tonight, I started to use that tab to search for something else, but a video on the side caught my eye:

Parabolas in Mario?!!
**watch it**

I thought, “Hmmmm… I see a some errors in there. I wonder what the reasons were? Is it a true misconception or is it lack of drawing capability? Do they think some of these statements are truly correct? Did they verify it mathematically on paper and can’t draw to match?? WHAAAAAAT happened???”

**I’m telling you, A.D.D. run amuck – I can get quite dramatic**

Anyway, I started to dismiss the video and get back to what I SHOULD be working on, but I accidentally scrolled in the wrong direction. I saw this comment:

…hold the phone. This could get interesting.

The conversation continued:

My brain starts screaming “Math Practices THREE, FOUR, and FIVE!! HELLOOOOOO???

So, because I have three more workshops to prep for this week, I’d like to leave these little “idea nuggets” with you:

Idea #1: Mathematically critique the video

Show the video to your students and ask them if the video is mathematically sound.

“Hey guys – watch this video I found this weekend. Does anything weird stick out to you? What questions do you have when you watch this? Is there anything we can use to verify or critique the mathematical statements made in the video?”

Idea #2: Verify your side and critique the reasoning in an epic math battle

Show the conversation to your students and ask them to prove who is right.

“Hey guys – so I found this video over the weekend that you gotta watch. But THEN… oh, this is REALLY REALLY good… THEN, they get into this “math war” in the comments. Who do you agree with? James Bond people on this side of the room… T.O.D. people on this side of the room. You guys need to use some type of mathematical tool to (a) verify that your guy is mathematically correct and (b) prove why the other guy is mathematically WRONG. Choose your side aaaaaaaannnnd…. GO! “

I’d love to find the time to take screen shots of that video, load it into Desmos and actually determine the answers to those questions, but you know what I would love even more?

…watching students jump at the opportunity to do it.

Within the verification, I would expect students to do it in a “constructive” way. I don’t want to encourage “math burns” in the classroom – that will destroy the collaborative culture that we work very hard to build inside the classroom. I think this would be a great opportunity to talk about ways to “critique the reasoning of others” without being a total jerk face.

You cannot imagine the appreciation that warmed my cynical old lady heart when I saw this tweet from Desmos the day after this blog posted:

You can click on the tweet to take you to Parabola Mario.

Desmos, thank you. ❤


3 thoughts on “Mario’s Parabola… Or is it? (with Update)

  1. This is an awesome idea! I love the idea of having students debate whether or not it's a parabola. I did a similar Mario task last year, but now I'm thinking I should revamp it in light of this post.


  2. Feeling challenged, I did try to make a GeoGebra Mario example. The blogpost has the excellent Desmos version and a cool processing script from Andrew Knauft, too.


  3. This is wonderful teaching materials!


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