Saturday, August 11, 2012

Virginia History in Coordinates

My kids have already studied the Civil War and Virginia History by the time they get to the 8th grade, but I think it still interests them. I say I think because they don't really talk about it, but they wear a lot of Confederate flags and there's still a "South will rise again" mentality.

I spent the week in NYC with some awesome history teachers and am actively working to connect what I'm learning (the history and development of NYC from immigrants to 9/11) to what I teach (Algebra I).

When we learned about the little studied Battle of Brooklyn in which Washington was flanked on all sides, I thought about making a coordinates lesson out of it. (I won't say this idea was mine, for the inspiration came from some of my colleagues. Let's set aside the fact that I have to teach about coordinates and plotting points in Algebra I.)

So talking with these other amazing teachers, they told me that General Lee was apparently a brilliant strategist and, since I'm in the south, my students really might connect with that. So instead of, or perhaps in addition to, learning about Washington's patterns, we could also talk about coordinates in terms of Lee. For all of you (or maybe the few of you) advanced geometers out there, the lesson I am thinking of very closely resembles taxi-cab geometry: "If Lee wanted to get from A to B but the trail went this way and the other troops were in the way here, show two ways he could get to B. You need to name the coordinates at which he would turn." Something to that effect.

I would take a map like this:

From Almost Chosen People
and a brief story of what was happening. Then I would implant that onto a coordinate grid:

And it would look something like that. I would ask them to try to head off McClellen at the James River. The troups would need to be able to report back specifics of their movements, so the students need to name which group (coordinate) they are starting at and what coordinates they are moving through to make their move.

This idea is so adaptable to whereever you live - Oregon Trail, Trail of Tears, Alamo...and of course it doesn't have to be limited to history. You could talk about city streets and the best way to get to the theater, getting around a local college, etc. The possibilities here really are endless.

I linked up!