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Mini-Documentaries Make Math and Science Meaningful to Students

By Dave Banks
April 8, 2009

It’s a familiar picture: A middle school student stares absently at his dog-eared algebra textbook, trying to force his way through the evening’s set of quadratic equations. As he chews on his pen cap, searching for the intersection of parabolas, he wonders aloud "Why do I have to do this – I’m never going to use these things in real life!"

The Futures Channel has recognized the disconnect that some kids have with potentially vague mathematical and scientific concepts and have decided to do something about it. They have developed a library of short, 2-5 minute videos that establish real-world context that make math and science meaningful to kids

Educators are the main target for The Future Channel’s video library – including both the traditional school system and home school programs – but the content can be accessed by anyone with an interest in learning more about using math and science in the real world.

The Future Channel’s Web site features more than 100 educational and entertaining mini-documentaries covering everything from making stronger skateboard decks to the importance of indicator species in our environment … or their latest piece on building performance bicycle wheels. The videos not only show how interesting products are made, but also illustrate how important math and science are for some really cool jobs like Custom Guitar Fabricator or Toy Inventor, and other opportunities that students may have never known existed.

Nearly every video comes with associated exercises and resources that teachers can use to augment their lesson plans. The supplemental resources cover grades 2 through 12 and many videos provide worksheets that apply to a variety of education levels.

Some of the videos are a little dated – The Futures Channel has been assembling their library since 1999 – but the information is still as pertinent today as it was 10 years ago, showing how math and science affect all of us – even the kid chewing on his pen cap and wondering exactly why algebra is important.

Wired.com: Geek Dad

Math Forum Internet News

March 28, 2008 The Futures Channel offers teachers a variety of free online movie clips and related lesson plans about real-world applications of mathematics and science.

Resources are organized:
Real World Movies
Animals
Art & Music
Commerce
Design
Environment
Innovation
Living & Working in Space
Science & Tech
Teaching & Learning

Algebra in the Real World
Hands-On Math
Jaime Escalante
Kay Toliver
Problem Solving
Science & Technology

Math Forum

Homeschool Math Blog

March 16, 2008 – Movies of math in the real world – FuturesChannel.com

I delved into this fascinating website just this past week, and I heartily recommend you visit it, too!

Most math teachers have faced the age-old question, "When will I ever need this?", especially when kids get into algebra and more. Well,FuturesChannel.com has the answer – in the form of short movies, lesson guides, and worksheets.

The topics are just fascinating, from skyscrapers, roller coasters, endangered animals, to inventing, the subway, bakery, bicycle design, etc.

For each movie, there is a worksheet or several for the student that concentrates on some math topic that is needed in the field shown in the movie.

Homeschool Math Blog

Qualcomm Incorporated

February 4, 2008 – North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and Digital Millennial Consulting Join With Qualcomm to Give 100 Smartphones to Students in North Carolina

Project K-Nect Bets on Cell Phones to Help Raise Math Scores in 9th Grade Classrooms

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. and SAN DIEGO — February 04, 2008 — The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Digital Millennial Consulting and Qualcomm Incorporated (Nasdaq: QCOM), a leading developer and innovator of advanced wireless technologies and data solutions, today announced the joint distribution of 100 Smartphones to four high schools in three school districts across the state of North Carolina.

Project K-Nect is a pilot education program using Smartphones with advanced mobile broadband technologies to deliver educational material to 9th grade students in Onslow, Durham and Winston-Salem/Forsyth Counties to improve math proficiency levels in the state. During today’s launch ceremony of the project at Southwest High School, located in Onslow County, Dr. June St. Clair Atkinson, North Carolina state superintendent, Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC), Tim Magner, director of the Office of Education Technology for the U.S. Department of Education, Dr. Irwin M. Jacobs, chairman and founder of Qualcomm, along with other distinguished guests and program supporters, officially announced the beginning of this innovative project. Project K-Nect video footage is available online by visiting www.qualcomm.com/wirelessreach/projects/education.html.

“We cannot expect students to prepare for life in the 21st century unless we provide them with the tools, skills and knowledge they need,” said State Superintendent Atkinson. “Qualcomm’s sponsorship of Project K-Nect brings new opportunities to students in our state and harnesses a common, state-of-the-art communications tool – Smartphones – to capture students’ interest and to give them extra opportunities for learning mathematics. I am excited by the partnerships that have made this project possible, and I look forward to applying what we learn in other schools and districts.”

The project will run through June 2008 and be followed up with an extensive research study examining the viability of utilizing Smartphones to increase student achievement in mathematics. Safeguards will be in place to assure that students are able to communicate only with authorized users and that they observe acceptable use policies for the Smartphones. The Smartphones are enabled by CDMA2000® 1xEV-DO and EV-DO Rev. A technologies.

“Qualcomm is excited about the educational possibilities of using advanced mobile broadband technologies in the classroom,” said Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs, chairman and founder of Qualcomm. “We are committed to working with our partners worldwide through our Wireless Reach Initiative to improve people’s lives through access to advanced technologies.”

The project aims to increase math achievement as measured by proficiency in state testing and improved classroom performance by improving the academic involvement of harder-to-engage students who have struggled with math. It also seeks to dramatically impact the current digital divide by providing supplemental learning through mobile Smartphones with high-speed wireless connectivity to students who to otherwise might not have access to a computer at home.

“The project represents a new and emerging trend towards the utilization of smaller portable devices to assist students in achieving their core academic goals,” said Shawn Gross of Digital Millennial Consulting and Project K-Nect director. “We are excited about the launch of Project K-Nect and its effects on the engagement of students in math. The strong, positive support from teachers gives them a new look toward futures in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers.”

The Project K-Nect partnership includes:
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, implementing the program in four public schools, including Dixon High School, Southwest High School, Southern School of Engineering and Carver High School.

Digital Millennial Consulting, managing the technology development, implementation, support services, professional development and monitoring and evaluation of the project.

Qualcomm, as the primary sponsor of the project through its worldwide Wireless Reach™ initiative.

Drexel University, through its Math Forum, is Project K-Nect’s primary subject matter expert and is responsible for the design of all the mathematics content, curriculum development, and alignment to standards and professional development.

Choice Solutions is providing technology resources, expertise in the architecture, design, development, testing and deployment for Project K-Nect.

SOTI, through its MobiControl product, is providing tools to remotely monitor in real time all activities undertaken by the students on their designated devices.

Florida State University, through its Florida Center for Interactive Media, is managing the development of all multimedia for the mathematics content available on the Smartphone. Psymes Consulting is the responsible agent for all research related activities associated with Project K-Nect.

Project K-Nect contributing sponsors include:
The Wireless Foundation
The Futures Channel
BrainPop
Motricity

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 100 charter schools serving approximately 1.4 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state’s public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

Digital Millennial Consulting is a cross-sector consulting firm specializing in the education technology sector serving both public and private entities by delivering focused solutions for schools, state and local educational agencies, institutions of higher education and nonprofit or for-profit organizations to effectively develop and implement technology strategies and systems to maximize academic achievement for our millennial students.

Qualcomm believes access to advanced wireless voice and data services improves people’s lives. The Company’s Wireless Reach initiative supports programs and solutions that bring the benefits of connectivity to developing communities globally. By working with the Company’s partners, Wireless Reach projects create new ways for people to communicate, learn, access healthcare and reach global markets. For more information please visit www.qualcomm.com/wirelessreach.

Qualcomm Incorporated is a leader in developing and delivering innovative digital wireless communications products and services based on CDMA and other advanced technologies. Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., Qualcomm is included in the S&P 500 Index and is a 2007 FORTUNE 500® company traded on The Nasdaq Stock Market® under the ticker symbol QCOM.

Qualcomm

T.H.E. Journal

Test Prep and Math Realities
by Patricia Deubel, Ph.D.

October 1, 2007 – TheFuturesChannel.com contains highly motivating videos, many shorter than five minutes, that link math and science to real-world applications and careers. For example, the section on Teaching & Learning contains Algebra in the Real World (by topics covered within a typical algebra course), Hands on Math (by strands), Problem Solving (by strategies), and more. Each video is accompanied by a lesson that delves into the video’s content. Best of all, videos and classroom activities are free.

T.H.E. Journal

eSchool News

Site of the Week for
Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Videos show how math, science relate to real-world applications and careers

August 1, 2007—Math and science educators will find free video resources that can help connect their lessons to real-world applications at TheFuturesChannel.com. The site produces short documentary-style videos that take students behind the scenes with professionals from a wide range of careers. As the subjects of these video clips discuss why math and science are so important in their respective fields, they help answer the common question, "Why do I need to learn this?" The site’s Hand-On Math section features movies on counting numbers and integers, algebra, fractions, geometry, measurement, and statistics. One clip incorporates measurement into a video about college students who must measure food for animal feedings. Teachers can download classroom activities based on the video content. All videos and classroom activities are available free of charge.

http://www.eschoolnews.com

Wired Magazine

July, 2007
Wired Magazine: Issue 15.07

What’s Wired This Month

Next time your kid complains about algebra, send him to thefutureschannel.com. The site’s videos highlight the math and science skills needed to create cool stuff like stunt bicycles, noise-canceling headphones, and roller coasters.

http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/magazine/15-07/pl_playlist

USA Today Review

May 25, 2007
USA Today, Tech_Space
by Angela Gunn

Putting it together, getting it on film: The Futures Channel

If anyone asks you about The Futures Channel, I suppose you could tell them it’s YouTube for nerds — video, lots of it, concerning the sciences, technology, engineering and allied fields. This is high-quality stuff, though, suitable for classroom use (something I doubt you’ll hear me suggest re YouTube anytime soon) and designed to explain to kids why math and the sciences are not just applicable to the real world but extremely cool pursuits. Your project for the weekend / beginning of summer vacation? Find the kid in your life who says s/he doesn’t need education because s/he’s going to be a Star — odds are you’ve got one around — and sit him/her down in front of Ndugu Chancler’s exposition on math and the rhythm section. After that, you’re free to browse around on your own and, inevitably, go nuts with the space section. Of course you will.

http://blogs.usatoday.com/

Education World Review

May 2007
Education World Site Reviews

A+ The Futures Channel: Tune in, turn on to the future, math and science teachers

A+ CONTENT:
The Futures Channel provides free multimedia resources for math and science teachers. As stated on the Web site, the goal is to use “new media technologies to create a channel between the scientists, engineers, explorers, and visionaries who are shaping the future, and today’s learners who will one day succeed them.”

A+ SITE DESIGN:
This site is well organized with links listed in the left sidebar and a search tool available for finding movies and lessons quickly. Featured movies are in the main portion of the front page. Flash Player 7 or higher is required.

REVIEW:
The Futures Channel connects learning to the real world through free documentary videos and lessons that make learning engaging and fun. Movie and lesson categories include Algebra in the Real World, Hands-on Math, Living & Working in Space, Problem Solving, and Science and Technology. These short video clips that go behind the scenes with professionals from a wide range of careers put the learning into context and help answer the question, “Why do I need to learn this?” The movies run around five minutes each and use a wide range of subject matter such as roller coasters, ball parks, robots, solar powered cars, sports, the zoo and much more to capture the interest of students. Each video is accompanied by at least one lesson and some have several lessons for different grade levels. The videos are excellent for bringing life to your curriculum.

© Copyright EducationWorld.com, reprinted with permission.

http://www.education-world.com/awards/2007/r0507-14.shtml

School Library Journal Review

December 2005
Video of the Week–The Futures Channel Digital Video Resource Library: Math and Science on Location

DVD. color. with CD-ROM, tchr’s. guide. The Futures Channel (thefutureschannel.com). 2005. ISBN 0-9764853-0-3. $299.

Gr 4-12–Math and science teachers looking to show their students why they need to learn about algebraic integers, ratios, or electromagnetism will find these snazzy mini-movies just the ticket. The collection of 67 brief videos (less than 5 minutes each) show people working in jobs in which they use math and science. The CD-ROM guide expands on each segment with curriculum connections, word problems, and hands-on activities. Divided into general categories of math, science, technology, and arts, career examples include a Barbie doll designer, Yankee Stadium hot dog vendor, campground creator, tornado chaser, percussionist, rice farmer, sports photographer, and more. Roller coaster engineers, shown at Six Flags theme park, talk about kinetic energy, linear acceleration, and other physics principles used in planning exciting rides that contain an element of danger. The printable follow-up in the guide pertaining to the roller coaster segment offers word problems on probability, statistics, and velocity. Although these segments are not very detailed, they will pique student interest for further exploration. Some topics, such as ocean exploration and telescopes, are continued in successive segments. The DVD format allows users to search by topic, title, or segment number. References to standards refer to curriculum connections rather than local or national educational standards. This is a great way to show students the connection between math and science skills and interesting and fulfilling career choices.

NCTM REVIEW August 2005

Vol. 11, No. 1 • August 2005
MATHEMATICS TEACHING IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL

MATH AND SCIENCE ON LOCATION: DIGITAL VIDEO RESOURCE LIBRARY

The Futures Channel, 2004. $1250. DVD contains 67 mini-movies; CD-ROM contains more than 600 hands-on activities and Standards correlation; printable User’s Guide. The Futures Channel; (877) 937-7515; www.thefutureschannel.com. Math and Science on Location Digital Video Resource Library consists of three components: (1) a DVD that contains 67 minimovies; (2) a CD-ROM that contains over 600 problems, including hands-on activities; and (3) a printable user’s guide.

The opening screen of the DVD allows the user to choose a movie by content area (mathematics, science, technology, or arts) or by movie title or movie number. If a content area is selected, the next screen lists topics for the area. Under mathematics, the choices are "The Nature of Mathematics"; "Counting Numbers and Integers"; "Geometry, Fractions, Decimals, Percents, Ratios, Statistics and Probability"; and "Algebra, Trigonometric Ratios, and Trigonometric Functions." More specific subtopics are then listed for each. The subtopics for measurement, for example, are length and distance, area, volume, and weight and mass. Several movie titles are given for each subtopic. The DVD is user-friendly and allows the teacher to easily choose specific movies for the skills being taught in the classroom. Each movie is less than five minutes long.

The CD-ROM presents information in the same format but also lists standards for each subtopic. If the teacher chooses length and distance as the skill of interest, the standards correlated to this skill would be "Can convert between metric and English length units"; "Can measure lengths"; "Knows the names of common units for measurement of length and (roughly) their relative size"; and "Understands the concept ‘length.’ " Clicking on any standard will then produce a list of movies that relate to the standard. When the movie title is selected, a Movie Guide appears. The Movie Guides are usually three to four pages and include movie background information, running times, and examples of mathematics and science applications in careers as well as problems, activities, and hands-on student projects. These can all be printed.

The User’s Guide provides detailed instructions on use of the DVD and CD-ROM, a description of the sixty-seven movies, and the content areas recommended for the use of each movie. One recommendation to improve this guide would be to include the length of each movie with the description. At present, the length only appears on the movie guides on the CD-ROM.

As I previewed this product, I had two questions that I felt needed to be answered before I wrote this review. I contacted The Futures Channel’s toll-free number and had an immediate response. I was interested in knowing what standards were used for the program. In particular, I knew that the standard about converting between metric and English units was not an NCTM standard. The representative of The Futures Channel told me that the standards were generated by The Futures Channel as a superset of state mathematics and science standards so that teachers could correlate the content of the DVD to their state and district standards. I also questioned the small numbers that appear on the movie titles when a standard is chosen. The meaning of these numbers was not found in the User’s Guide. I was told that the small numbers indicate the problems in the Movie Guide, which relate to the standard.

This product is very impressive. The professionals on the movies relate their job descriptions in a manner that will interest middle-grades and high school students. The Movie Guides present a variety of interesting problems correlated to the movies that apply to various levels and content strands. The Futures Channel provides support through e-mail, the telephone, or regular mail. Math and Science on Location: Digital Video Resource Library would be an excellent supplement for the mathematics and science departments in any secondary school. I am anxious to use this product in my classroom!

– Barbara Cain,
Thomas Jefferson Middle School,
Merritt Island, FL 32952

Reproduced with permission from Mathematics Teaching In The Middle School, copyright © 2005 by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc. www.nctm.org. All rights reserved

NCTM REVIEW May 2005

Vol. 89, No. 9 • May 2005
MATHEMATICS TEACHER

PRODUCTS
Math and Science on Location: Digital Video Resource Library, The Futures Channel, 2004. $1,250.00, DVD containing 67 mini-movies; CD-ROM containing 600-plus hands-on activities and standards correlation; printable user’s guide. The Futures Channel, National Sales Office, 1400 E. Touhy Ave., Suite 225, Des Plaines, IL 60018; (877) 937-7515; www.thefutureschannel.com.

Math and Science on Location takes on-the-job looks at careers that seem to be so much fun that you are amazed people get paid to do them. This dramatic teaching package includes a DVD featuring 67 relatively brief movie segments, a CD-ROM with companion teaching materials that include more than 600 motivating activities, and a user’s guide, which indexes the topics and instructs in the use of the menu for both CD players and computer use. The software runs on Mac and PC and is easy to navigate. I found that my Mac notebook did a great job with the outstanding graphics in both the worksheets and the movies.

The materials are informative and inspirational as experts, who obviously love their work, explain their application of math, science, and art. These materials can be used for introducing lessons, enhancing them, or motivating students to research beyond the confines of their text. The teachers resources are impressive. Addressing concepts at several maturity levels, the questions are appropriate for both middle school and high school, and they are correlated to NCTM standards.

I am excited about having this resource available at my school. The math and science teachers are already competing for its use as we plan for courses.

-Brenda B. Morrow
Pinewood Preparatory School
Summerville, SC 29483


Reproduced with permission from Mathematics Teacher, copyright (c) 2005 by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc. www.nctm.org. All rights reserved

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