Angry Birds for College Algebra
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Introduction

Today, I did something that I never do in class: I taught using Angry Birds for college algebra-related teaching purposes. Right there on the projector…but highly intentional.

Angry Birds for College Algebra

I feel that my students struggle with the notion of why they should study the material in my college algebra course. It is not enough to them (nor should it be!) to learn the content or simply to take a course to “play the college game”. It is our failure in that we have turned the abstraction of basic algebra into something for which people cannot find application!  So we spent time talking about Angry Birds.  In particular, how the path of the birds (or any trajectory) is an arc–a parabola (as defined by quadratic polynomials)!  We discussed what the “roots” of the quadratic formula represented in terms of the game and other applications. I then encouraged the students to take out their phones and play Angry Birds for the purposes of watching the trajectory (as outlined on the screen) for about 2 minutes.

Tweeting in the Classroom

To conclude this assignment, I had my students “Tweet” some of their realizations (ala. Prof. Patrick Bahls of UNCA; http://changeofbasis.blogspot.com/).  They simply had to talk about how the game displayed/related mathematics.  Here are some of their responses:

  • “Have you ever noticed that the birds from Angry Birds have been flying in a parabola?”
  • “When a bird is shot…it follows a certain mathematical trajectory ….and creates a parabola.”
  • “Angry Birds relates to a parabola because of the arcs formed when the birds fly through the air after being shot from the slingshot.”
  • “I’m playing Angry Birds and I rock at it.  Whoever made this game had 2 loves:  cruelty to animals and math…”
  • “#ReasonsToPlayAngryBirdsInClass Because pigs hate parabolas with correct Algebraic equations…and to stay awake.”
  • “The birds in Angry Birds go up and come back down.  Much like an upside-down parabola.  #playerinalgebra
  • The game Angry Birds relates to a parabola because of the different arches the birds are shot through.  Changing the angle of the sling-shot changes the arch of the parabola.  “
  • “The angry birds start at an origin point of 0 just like in a parabola.  It creates an arch then goes back to 0 after the peak.”
  • “The #angrybird flight path is much like the shape of a parabola.  It has a highest point that the bird reaches which is the same as a vertex.”
  • “Angry Birds is MATH!  The bird shoots in an arch, it never goes straight.  The little dotted arch always makes the same shape.”
  • “…the birds are flying in a parabola…you choose the arc at which the birds are traveling.”
  • “Dude, my math teacher is letting play Angry Birds n math.  He relates it to how it arches and makes a parabola shape.”

Some fun hash tags include:  #yodubesickatangrybirds, #playerinalgebra, #ReasonsToPlayAngryBirdsInClass, #AngrybirdsisMath, #mathematiciansmadeangrybirds.

Conclusion

The experiment didn’t go perfectly.  The students didn’t all grab the intent of the game and work.  However, all wasn’t lost.  Students had fun, saw a correlation of an application to mathematics, and I initiated a writing portion of the class.

Angry Birds for College Algebra
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