Precalculus and Dolls?

Each of Math Department Chair Jalaj Desai’s precalculus classes were broken up into teams of 4-5 students. They were given a Ken or Barbie doll, rubber bands, and a mission: “Determine the maximum number of rubber bands that can be used at any given height and not cause any type of injury or fatality, while still giving maximum thrills.” (continued)  
The assignment read like this: “Your team has been hired to work for the Argonaut Daredevil Entertainment Company.  Your company provides rock climbing, skydiving, deep-sea adventures, and cliff diving to interested customers.  In order to boost sagging sales, the company has decided to add bungee jumping to its list of available adventures. 

As part of the assignment, the board of directors decided that several teams will undertake the task of working out the details of this newest adventure.  Because the bungee jumping will take place at several different locations, it will be necessary to find a way to determine how much bungee rope will be needed for any given height.  A successful bungee adventure will maximize thrills but still be safe; therefore the jumper must come as close as possible to the ground without hitting.  This will take some precise planning. ”

Every student had a role to play within his or her team. But this was no traditional textbook math problem, in which all the necessary information would be neatly laid out ahead of time.

As the students fanned out across the Rutgers Prep campus, it became clear: this lesson was as much about figuring out which questions to ask, as it was about answering those questions.

This is part of how we think about learning, at Rutgers Prep… we are preparing students to be independent learners who are capable of identifying and posing the critical questions.  

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