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posted: Sun, Sep 28th, 2014

Amplify comes to MOMS

Amplify has come to the Mount Olive Middle School eighth grade. Recently rolled out for in-school use in social studies, Amplify is a tablet computer system custom-designed to meet the needs of K-12 education and the touchscreen generation. The 10-inch, Android-based tablets feature tools designed to make common activities easier for students and teachers.

 As a learning tool, the tablets can wirelessly connect students to the vast informational resources of the Internet right at their desks. Since it covers current news, facts and statistics of an everchanging world, and the effects of historical milestones, social studies is the perfect subject to use Amplify.

“Research and current events are a big part of what we do so having students be able to individually access the Internet while in class will be great,” said social studies teacher Matt Hansen, who co-teaches with Josh Lindeblad. “Amplify is a powerful tool that I think will really engage kids.”

But perhaps just as important as Internet access will be pre-loaded educational software and productivity applications. These include Encyclopedia Britannica, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the education-specific search engine Gooru, an eReader, Khan Academy videos, and Google Apps. Never before have MOMS students had this much information and such valuable resources so readily available. 

First up for the eighth-graders will be a problem-based social studies project that will make full use of Amplify’s capabilities. In October, students will work in teams to research cities in the western hemisphere. Each team will prepare a written report, multimedia presentation, and video that make a compelling case to choose its city as host of the Olympic games. The project will make use of Amplify’s Internet access as well as the word processing, video, and presentation applications of the tablet system.

Amplify also makes brings classroom management, communication, and student assessment into the 21st Century. Teachers can plan lessons on the tablets, prepare and distribute quizzes and instructional material electronically, take attendance, communicate directly with students, and track student assessment data and grades. A dashboard application even allows teachers to monitor what every student is working on at a glance, and block out applications that aren’t essential for the task at hand.

The plan at MOMS is to slowly roll out Amplify into other subject areas as students become proficient with the system.

Amplify was developed by the News Corporation and Joel Klein, former chancellor of the New York City public schools.

The math of the game        

Steve Leonard’s Dynamic Math class shows seventh-graders that math is used all around us in the world. This fall, the educator has brought the excitement of fantasy football to the classroom.

Mr. Leonard, who personally has played fantasy football for years, has made math the center of the game for his 111 students. Algebra, fractions, variables, exponents, order of operation, multiplication, and addition are just some of the math skills and concepts that these amateur general managers need to use. 

Playing the game

Students, working in pairs, first selected a roster of 16 football players at the beginning of the season using packets of statistics that Mr. Leonard compiled. Each football player was assigned a salary/value and students were compelled to stay under the salary cap.

Every week, teams in each class are randomly selected to compete against each other. The students select their eight starting players. Then every Tuesday after the final game of the week is played, the students use laptops and access data on the ESPN website. They spend a portion of the class plugging numbers into the equations and calculating team points.

It’s not easy. The equation to come up with the points earned by a running back, for example, looks something like this. 

Running Back points = 15 (Touchdowns rushing + Yards rushing/100) + 15 (Touchdowns receiving + Yards receiving/100 + Reception/Targets) 

The quarterback, place kicker, and wide receiver and tight end formulas are similarly complex. (Would all you serious fantasy football enthusiasts really be so dedicated if you had to do all this math yourselves?) 

“This is an activity that kids have fun with and at the same time lets them practice their skills,” said Mr. Leonard, an avid Jets fan who keeps his treasure trove of Jets bobbleheads on his desk at school. “It engages them on so many different levels.” 

Critical thinking and competition

For some students, the game has given rise to an interest in football – if only as a topic worth studying to get an edge up on the competition. Erin Huber, for example, was never a football fan. However, she now does some serious homework on player stats, injuries, and likelihood of a player performing well each week.

“I like that it’s real world thinking and not just sitting down and doing math problems,” Erin said about the game. “I like that it’s connected to something.”

Riley Farkas, already a football fan (Cowboys and Jets) who attends Giants games with her dad, loves going head to head with her classmates.

“It’s fun to compete with other kids and do something that usually adults only do,” she said.

David Eisenberg, the school’s library/media specialist, conceived the idea of fantasy football math for MOMS and worked with parent and mathematician Fei Shen to develop the statistics and formulas. Mr. Eisenberg brought the football math idea to Mr. Leonard late last spring. Over the summer, Mr. Leonard created all the supporting documents, player purchasing system, classroom materials, and student rules in preparation for the school year.

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Mount Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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Phone: 973.691.4006 Fax: 973.691.4029

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