Welcome to Jurassic Park Math!

Imagine entering your math class to find out you’ll be using TI-Innovator Rovers to fence in dinosaurs to save Jurassic Park. This was the scene set by Middle School Math Teacher Dr. Jody Marberry for her eighth-grade Accelerated Math class last week. First, students watched the « Welcome to Jurassic Park » scene and a clip from the 1993 film. Then, they were told they worked at the park and had to build enclosures for the dinosaurs to ensure the safety of the guests. Cue the clever incorporation of a fun math lesson!

These eighth graders were learning about linear functions and linear systems. « Their task was to put their knowledge to the test by constructing fencing to secure the dinosaurs, » explained Dr. Marberry. In teams, students began by determining the equation of each line of fencing needed to secure the creatures. The equations also required domain restrictions to ensure the fence line stopped at each fence post. From there, they imported the slope, y-intercept, and domain restrictions for each line. If their planning was accurate, the Rover drove to the correct post on the grid, stopped, and then drove to the next fence post, completing the rotation until a fence was drawn around the dinosaurs.

What inspired Marberry’s lesson? A TI-nSpire lesson called « Corraling the Sheep, » which was first introduced to her by MICDS JK-12 Math Department Chair Diane Broberg. « I did some online research using the TI resources site to learn how to adjust the code to have it work with the grid boards we had in the classroom, » Dr. Marberry said. « The activity gave students the opportunity to test their knowledge of writing linear equations and determining domain restrictions. When the Rover ‘drove’ the perimeter of the fence, the students got real-time feedback which allowed iteration and re-testing. It was also an opportunity for the students to see real-world examples of finding solutions to linear systems of equations. »

Could the students make the park safe for visitors by using their Rovers to fence in the dinosaurs? To quote a line in Jurassic Park, « Life finds a way, » but in this case, math found a way. The challenge was successfully met by several students, but even those who were unsuccessful did not give up. « Instead, they asked me, ‘When will we get a chance to work on the project some more?' » said Dr. Marberry.

Several of the Jurassic Park mathematicians shared what they thought about this experiential lesson. « I learned a lot about systems of equations and programming rovers. I learned how to use domains and systems that are used in real life, » shares Reina Banerjee ’27. « I thought that the lesson was really fun. I have watched Jurassic Park before and its incorporation made it much more interesting. Lola and I were able to successfully build our fence and the process was very fun and informative. Using the rovers was really engaging and enjoyable because it was a hands-on activity, and I personally love doing group activities! »

Lola Compton ’27 enjoyed practicing the math skills with her teammate Reina as well. « I quite enjoyed learning how to use the math skills we have been learning in class for practical use, like creating an outlined area to hold dinosaurs. Reina and I work really well together, so we were able to figure out the equations and domains quickly enough to finish the activity before the end of class. The rovers are my personal favorites to use in class, so the activity was really fun! »

Another successful team was with Grant Krainik ’27 and Connor Blake ’27. « The Jurassic Park lesson was definitely challenging, as we had to figure out the slope, where the line would go, and when to cut it off, » said Grant. « The incorporation of the dinosaurs was pretty fun, as I was just expecting to see dots and equations. I like how the problem had some story behind it, although the story didn’t play much into the actual project. My partner Connor and I were able to successfully plot a fence around the dinosaurs. I enjoyed seeing the actual creation of the fence and having physical dinosaurs to view it better, although the rover is only accurate if the person behind it is accurate. I also just really enjoyed being in the presence of tiny plastic dinosaurs. »

A roaring applause goes to our students who successfully completed this creative math mission!