# Trig and MLK Week Continued

Just blogging to report on my two big initiatives for the week: finishing up a mini-project on trigonometry using the micro:bit accelerometers, and a week on anti-racism in my sixth-grade advisory.

The mini-project finished up SO well. We started last week by assembling micro:bit inclinometers and programming them to report out the angle measured by using trig ratios. This week, we took measurements with them and did the math. The students measured the height of a neighboring building by standing exactly 800 centimeters away and sighting the roofline with their micro:bit devices. It’s been a cold week so we rushed inside to do the math, and the kids calculated a building height of around 39 feet. We probably got in the ballpark.

One commenter on my blog suggested we try another method, sighting an object from a distance, then backing up a known distance and taking another reading. This ended up being a cool application of a system of equations. Great suggestion!

Even though learning to solve systems of equations feels like drudgery at first, it’s one of the more useful algebra concepts I have learned. In my decade as an engineer, I modeled many situations involving systems.

The kids did a great job and seemed to enjoy the challenge of the activity.

The other day, I blogged about the very strange situation involving the Catholic school teens in DC mocking other protesters near the Lincoln Memorial. With the MLK holiday coinciding with that weekend, I really felt the need to do a lesson series on racism in my advisory class. They are sixth-graders, and I decided to survey them first – I’m glad I did. Only one of the kids had even heard of the incident with the protestors, which I found fascinating. What we perceive as going viral doesn’t reach all age groups equally. I decided to leave the incident off the lesson plan and focus on basic, age-appropriate lessons on racism.

We started with a few circle prompts about times they have ever seen someone treated unfairly because of their race, skin color, or religion. I asked them about their perceptions of bullying at our small school. Almost all the students feel that at our school, bullying is not really so much the issue. Some students can be rude or insensitive, but they understood the difference between rudeness and bullying.

I talked about how it’s healthy that in our lifetime, it’s not socially acceptable to be outwardly racist. People in our community tend to call each other out on it. Racism tends to take the shape of the many small ways in which your life is made a little easier or a little harder because of your race. We read through the list created by Peggy McIntosh in the Invisible Knapsack. Some of the students were able to chime in with ways in which privilege tends to show up at school – for example, if a girl hears “you’re pretty smart! Girls can be smart can’t they?” or if you get in trouble with the principal and a little voice makes you wonder if it’s because of the way you look.

Today, we started watching “A Class Divided“, the story of Jane Elliott’s brown eyes / blue eyes discrimination experiment in her third-grade classroom. The kids find it fascinating. It’s a very good and comprehensive introduction to what discrimination is and what it does to people. As a sixth-grade lesson, I think it’s a solid foundation to build on. I’m interested to debrief with the kids tomorrow to get their thoughts on it. By the end of class today, they were begging me to try the experiment at my school – to bring collars and let them try it. I think they’re intrigued at the idea of lording it over their classmates, but also wondering if the collars would make them the same nasty people that the third-graders became when they were empowered over their lower-class friends.

Jane Elliott is a nationally-known advocate for racism education now, and I told the students I have seen her do this experiment on adults and it’s still just as powerful. She can make adults cry. (I won’t show that video to the kids because there is swearing… but man!)

At some point, one of my students raised his hand and said “Donald Trump is racist.”  I sat in it for a moment and then said “Yes. He is.” Other kids wanted to chime in. I allowed a few comments. I ended with “He says racist things. It’s not OK.” And I moved on. I have heard arguments that Trump says the things he says to provoke crowds, or build his “message”. If you say racist things to provoke or build your message… you are a racist. I would never allow one of my students to say the things the president says. That behavior needs to be named.

It’s not a ton of lessons, but the students have been engaged and receptive, and I think it got us off to a good start when it comes to understanding these themes.

I'm a former software engineer who has taught middle school math and computer science for the past 6 years. I believe every kid has the right to be a thinker. I started this blog to save resources for integrating programming in the Common Core math classroom. I also use it to save my lessons and reflections from teaching budding computer scientists! Coding has transformed how I teach and think. You'll love what it does for you. You should try it.

### 2 responses to “Trig and MLK Week Continued”

1. sldjasdkj says :

I’m glad you didn’t jump the gun and expose your students to the lies that the main stream media told about the Covington Catholic students. Did you do proper research before you embarked on this lesson? Did you watch the entire hour-long video? Did you find other videos from other angles? Did you see the lady with the camera pushing the students away so that the boy would be photographed and videoed as being alone in “confronting” the Native American? Just by standing there with his classmates? Did you research the Native American’s history of activism and playing the victim in numerous instances that he alone instigated? Did you talk about a 64 year old man bullying a teenager? As for Donald Trump being racist because of racist statements, did you balance out the argument with sayings from Obama that were just as racist? I think you exposed a lot of your own personal bias in this blog.

• dupriestmath says :

You are sea-lioning. But I will give a single reply.
I did watch videos from other angles. From my observation, the Covington boys were behaving in a mocking and disrespectful way. The protesters provoked them and rather than walking away, the boys responded by harassing and making fun of the protesters. I would have been embarrassed to be one of the chaperones. The boys are kids and should have been taught how to interact with protesters in Washington – especially knowing they were there for a protest.

Donald Trump is a racist. His comments, tweets, and policy actions are racist. Someone who implies immigrants from Central America bring disease is racist. Someone who calls African nations sh*thole countries but praises immigrants from Norway… is racist. Someone who calls another politician Pocahontas as a slur is racist. Someone who publicly says he plans to ban all Muslims from coming to the US is racist. If these actions are not racist then we have lost our understanding of what it means to be a racist.

His words encourage others to be racist. Actual Nazis raise their hands in salute and say his name. And I have seen, first-hand, racial bullying done in school buildings by kids tossing around Trump’s name and campaign promises as a way to intimidate and provoke.

Teachers should not look the other way when it happens, and we do our kids a disservice when we see our highest elected leader in the land doing and saying obviously racist things and saying nothing.