An Online Math Activity: Pool Paths

Billiards via Scratch

With the advent of the Coronavirus and closed schools, NCTM has made available webinars for their upcoming 100 days of professional learning starting today, April 1. I tried to sign up for the opening session this evening but it was already closed out. A thousand teachers were already signed up. Can you imagine doing a session for a 1000 eager participants? You would have your 15+ minutes of fame! 

With schools closed one of the challenges is to come up with good activities to do with students online. So I was curious what mathematics teacher Mike Flynn would be sharing in his recorded webinar “Taking Your Online Instruction to the Next Level: Exploring How Effective Instructional Strategies Work in Online Environments”. During the webinar (32 minutes in), Mike shared a classic Harold Jacobs activity “The Path of the Billiard Ball.”  I learned about this activity back in 1970 when Mathematics: A Human Endeavor was first published. The opening lesson in the book is the billiard ball activity which was and still is one of my most favorite activities. 

If you have been following my blogs you know that I’m working on building a library of my favorite technology based math activities. The Billiards activity is one of them.  It uses Scratch to do the activity.

Dan Finkel – mathforlove.com – also has a version of this activity here.

NCTM Illuminations names its version Paper Pool. Unfortunately the Billiards Applet plug-in is no longer supported.

Dan Finkel’s article “The Billiard Ball Problem” is excellent!

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