Algebra Students Use Barbie Dolls to Understand Math Concepts

October 24, 2016

Barbie dolls are the product of an idea creator Ruth Handler had, which resulted in the release of the first doll in 1959.

Photo Credit: Melissa LeBlanc/Achona Online

Barbie dolls are the product of an idea creator Ruth Handler had, which resulted in the release of the first doll in 1959.

Academy, like other schools, places an emphasis on the importance of an education in math. Although all math classes have their similarities, Academy’s Algebra I class has something other schools do not– bungee-jumping Barbie dolls.

The freshmen who are currently taking Algebra I, a class taught by math teacher Megan Dubee, will be challenged to successfully complete the project. In order to succeed, members of the class are required to apply several different math skills in order to set their bungee-jump up correctly. By making the correct calculations, they are able to ensure the “safety” of their Barbie doll. The students will do their Barbie doll’s bungee jump outside of  the iLab conference room. Each jump will be videotaped by the students in order to review the results.

Freshman Sofía Tweed explains, “For the project, we must know how to calculate average, how to graph, how to calculate slope, how to write an equation for the line, and how to write in slope-intercept form.” 

Algebra student
Credit: Melissa LeBlanc/Achona Online
Algebra students use charts to manage the data from the project. Each drop requires the students to perform different jobs in order to obtain precise data.

The goal of the students is to correctly calculate the number of rubber bands that are needed for a successful bungee jump. If too few or too many rubber bands are used, the Barbie doll could “hit her head” or be injured in some other way, which the students determine by if the doll hits the wall during the jump or not. If the students get this result, their bungee jump will be deemed unsafe, and it would indicate that an incorrect number of rubber bands was used.

Credit: Melissa LeBlanc/Achona Online Outside of Academy's Algebra class, one of the world's highest bungee jumps, the Royal Gorge Bridge, is found in Colorado.
Credit: Melissa LeBlanc/Achona Online
Outside of Academy’s Algebra class, one of the world’s highest bungee jumps, the Royal Gorge Bridge, is found in Colorado.

Dubee’s project provides an unique way to engage her students. The entertaining assignment allows for the freshmen to have fun while still learning a practical application of several different math concepts. The students are exposed to the idea that math is required for activities that they least expect, such as bungee jumping. It also reinforces the student’s understanding of the importance behind each calculation, which is required in order to keep the participants safe.

Freshman Kennedy Wilson expresses, “It was a great team project that helped us improve both our group skills and our math skills.”

Algebra students
Credit: Melissa LeBlanc/Achona Online
Although “Barbie doll” has become the adopted term for the toy, the doll is truly named Barbara Millicent Roberts after the founders’ daughter.

Overall, the project has been deemed a success by the students. The Algebra I classes did not only work on their math skills, but they also improved their ability to work as a team. Throughout it all they were able to keep in mind the most important thing– having fun.

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