If you have taught your math students about perimeter and area, if you are ready to present them with an application challenge, and if they are into Pythonesque comedy (Do you know many middle schoolers who are not into the absurd?), consider showing this clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
After watching the clip, distribute the activity, “Monty Python and the Quadratic Shrubbery,” for your students to complete.
Applying newly learned math skills in a real-world helps students master those skills instead of just memorizing formulas or facts. Granted, Monty Python is far from “real”, but middle school-age students can connect with this genre. Having them solve the problem in groups in a timed setting will provide a big dose of competitive fun for a dreary winter day. Go ahead and try it if you are prepared to hear “Ni” for the remainder of the school year!
Summary of the activity: In the epic retelling of King Arthur’s quest to claim the holy grail, Arthur’s beleaguered band of knights have been charged with providing a sacrifice of a shrubbery to the fearsome Knights who say “Ni” in order to provide safe passage through the forest.
Roger the Shrubber, a recent acquaintance who has considerable expertise in the arrangement, design and sale of shrubberies, has specified 500 feet of picket fencing for this particular design. (Plus, picket fencing is on sale this week at Home Depot in 10 foot lengths in time for the holiday weekend.) Arthur and his knight decide to maximize the effect of their sacrifice by enclosing the greatest area possible. What is the greatest area possible using this amount of fencing Prove it mathematically. Since this unit is all about quadratics, and area is a square unit, try something involving W2 or L2.
The Knights who until recently said “Ni” have found your shrubbery to be good, but still lacking that certain “je ne sais quoi”. You have now been charged to include another shrubbery, placed next to the first, only slightly higher to get the two level effect, with a little path running down the middle. Roger the Shrubber (luckily still on speed dial) is able to accommodate this change order with minimal up-charge. The second shrubbery is to be larger than the first. Roger includes 1200 feet of fencing in order to enclose a rectangular area that then can be split in half with the additional fencing. What are the dimensions of the shrubbery that can meet this new criteria? Of course, prove it mathematically.
– Many thanks to guest blogger Jahna Lindquist for creating this activity. Jahna is a middle school math teacher at Crosswinds Arts and Science School, East Metro Integration District, a year-round IB middle years programme. St. Paul, MN @jahna1023