You have to be focused to be successful. The clear focus of a couple of teachers at the Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy to make learning relevant is getting teens focused on learning and winning state recognition. Making math concepts real for students is a challenge for all teachers and a necessity to get teens engaged in the learning process. Math teacher Brian Swanagan’s project to build a parabola to show students true application of math concepts has been selected a winner in the third round of Governor Nathan Deal’s Innovation in Teaching Competition. Swanagan was one of seven winners from across the state announced this week. Swanagan teamed with metals teacher Chesley Chambers at the College and Career Academy to make the math project real for students.
A parabola is a symmetrical plane curve that forms when a cone intersects with a plane parallel to its side. A u-shaped graph of a quadratic function is an example, or you may be more familiar with a satellite dish. The parabola's mathematical dimensions were determined by Swanagan’s students and then built by the students in Chamber’s metals class. The teamwork between the two groups combined Swanagan’s math teaching theory and Chambers’ hands-on practical application to allow an abstract math concept to leap off of paper and show students real-life applications of math. Students were able to use the parabola as a heat source by focusing light. They also found that it would capture sound and allow the student's music on a cell phone to be heard at great distances. The group was even able to construct a hot dog cooker that roasted hot dogs with just the use of the sun’s rays. “This allows math to come to life for my students,” stated Swanagan. “The parabola project lets students see how you can actually use math concepts instead of just working with numbers or equations on paper.” Chambers added, "This also brings to light the importance of taking higher level math for my students and shows them the necessity of being focused in their academic classes."
Helping students to see practical application of what they learn in class was one of the objectives to adding academic classes this year at the College and Career Academy. The school had operated for many years as a technical program where students were required to use their knowledge in robotics, construction, metal work, or other technical fields. However, without academic classes at the school, the theory and practical application did not come together to show a clear connection. “With math and science academic classes now on campus, our math teachers can work with the metals teacher to help math students to see the application for equations, and the technical students see the need to apply themselves in the classroom,” said Eric Waters, principal of the College and Career Academy. “This is helping students to see how concepts they learn in the classroom will be used in their lives after graduation.”
For being named an Innovation in Teaching winner, Swanagan will receive a $2,000 stipend, and the College and Career Academy will receive a $5,000 grant for implementation of Georgia’s instructional standards. In addition, Georgia Public Broadcasting will film at the College and Career Academy before the end of the school year to capture the innovation leading the way in educating children at the school on tape. Swanagan’s class, teaching and team approach with technical programs at the school will be made available through the GPB video to educators, parents and institutions of higher learning across the state.
This is Swanagan’s first year teaching math at the College and Career Academy. He previously taught math at Model High School.