Monday, 23 July 2012

Algebra: the video project

I set my lovely year 7s a project after introducing algebra with smarties last term. I was inspired by the subtraction stories on Mrs Cassidy's classroom blog, so I showed my class one of those to give them the idea of what we could do at the simplest level. Then I showed them some other stop-motion and other simple animations to inspire them further.

They had to brainstorm both ideas for what techniques they would use to make the video and what the algebra in their story would represent. I had them base it around an equation and solving that equation, so they had to have a story in which something was unknown, but could be found out using other information. They struggled a bit with this idea but eventually came up with lots of weird and wonderful ideas.

Here are some storyboards, which I think are fantastic. During the storyboard phase I was able to correct some misconceptions about equations and encourage them to write them a particular way and continue talking about the conventions of algebra, which I found a very positive experience.

But things went a bit downhill from there, mostly due to technology. I allowed the students a lot of freedom in what to do with their videos, so we had a mix of live recording, stop-motion, flash animation and screen-capture from video games. Then our microphones weren't strong enough to record sound from a distance, plus the stop-motion took longer than the others, plus we had issues with where things were stored as we worked on them and all the usual stuff and student absences and so on and so on. Leaving me at the end with not much video to show for those two weeks or so. Which is very disappointing for all of us. But I have learned lots of lessons for next time.

Things I would do next time:
  • I would start with a one-lesson intro to stop-motion, where they just take an object from their pencilcase and animate it. This way they can learn some technical skills and get a feel for the programs and the pace of the animation before they begin.
  • The story preparation worked fine and I would do that the same way again. I am totally happy with the storyboards and brainstorming.
  • Limit them to using stop-motion to animate either objects or drawings. Those were the most successful, and sound could be recorded afterwards by speaking right into the microphones. Although we are also planning to buy some better ones for the faculty.
  • Talk to them at the start about frame rates and other technical things, including setting up where the files are saved.
  • Get them to save everything to both student accounts (they were in pairs) in case one is away some lessons.


  1. "drum roll..."
    "my work here is done"

    just lovely. I'm sure they got a lot out of just the storyboards, however the videos themselves turned out.

    1. That first one is my favourite. I especially love how solving the equation is part of the story too.

      There was also one done as a news report where the pronumeral represented the unknown number of severed heads in some bags after some serious axe-murdering. Also students posing with tomato sauce as the extra severed heads.