When students think of Calculus they think of lots of hard equations with letters and numbers. And it’s too hard of a class for them.  This is what discourages students from taking upper level math classes. Helias Catholic has a teacher that just might have a solution for that.

Mrs. Leslie Verslues is a teacher at Helias. She teaches Per-Calculus, Business Calculus, and AP Calculus.  She has been teaching here for 13 years at Helias.  During this time she has dealt with all kinds of students and has discovered different ways she can help her students understand Calculus. 

One teaching tool Mrs. Verslues uses is having her classes construct and program robots. The students begin by assembling the body of the robot that includes eyes, wheels, motors, and sensors.  The students can choose to follow a guide to build the robots or come up with their own way to build it. The students have two days to complete the construction of the robot. With these two days the students build this robot from the wheels up. They use legos to connect all of the pieces together.

After the students construct the robot they have the rest of the week to program the robot to do certain tasks like moving forward and backwards, turning and stopping.  “The linear programming uses a step by step approach which is how you solve problems in Calculus”, says Mrs. Verslues. The programming is done with a computer program.  The students make the program by the specs they are given by Mrs. Verslues.  There are three programs that the students must complete.  The first two programs control the basic movements of the robot. The last program is either an obstacle course, a race, or if the students choose a battle. Mrs. Verslues says, “It teaches you that if you mess up in the programming of the robot you have to go back and fix the program kind of like going back and working through a problem again.”  

Using robots to help teach is just one non-traditional method that teachers are using to help their students learn the information they are teaching. Not only do students have fun building the robots but they also learn problem solving, which is key in Calculus.

The Crusader Raid, Vol. 6, Num. 4.
The Spring/Summer Issue
May 2014

Written by Alex Schwinke


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