The latest BLOSSOMS lesson teaches students how to make decisions in the face of uncertainty by using decision trees. With a seemingly simple setup, the Monty Hall scenario allows the decision maker (the game’s contestant) to retain or change an initial decision based on new information. The result is highly counterintuitive, resulting in immediate student engagement in the problem. The lesson then proceeds to introduce Decision Trees—graphical, intuitive representations of potentially complex decision situations under uncertainty. Such trees are the types of tools used by many professions, including physicians, sports coaches, oil and gas drillers, and even international diplomats. This lesson has an accompanying animation that allows students to explore the Monty Hall problem in depth, most likely at home on a computer. Sam Shames, a senior at MIT, Cameron Tabatabaie, a senior at the University of Pittsburg, and Ben Kaloupek, a senior at Northeastern University, are the creators and presenters of this lesson. Watch the lesson here.
“Behind the Scenes at MIT” is a collection of short videos that feature MIT researchers explaining how a textbook chemistry topic is essential to their research and to an inspiring real-world application. There are currently twelve science videos, which can be searched by chemistry topic (i.e. atomic theory, bonding, acid-base equilibrium) or by research application. A set of accompanying personal videos, one for each scientist featured, illustrates their journeys to becoming a scientist. These videos are intended to help motivate students to learn chemistry, inspire students to tackle important scientific problems in their future careers, and expose students to the many faces of chemistry. Video creation was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institue (HHMI) through an HHMI Professors Grant to MIT Professor Cathy Drennan. Check out this exciting new resource at: http://chemvideos.mit.edu/.
On August 29th, Professor Richard Larson and Elizabeth Murray led a virtual workshop with Pakistani math and science teachers—along with teacher educators—who gathered for the event in Lahore. The goal of this workshop was two-fold: 1) to introduce the MIT BLOSSOMS resource and instruct teachers around utilization of that resource; and 2) to encourage participating teachers to incorporate some of the BLOSSOMS teaching approaches into the creation of their own lessons. During the 4-hour workshop, a large number of BLOSSOMS lessons were sampled and various teaching approaches were presented, including Inquiry, the 5-E’s and Problem-Based Learning. This workshop was part of a USAID-funded initiative at MIT, “Piloting Contemporary Approaches to Online Teacher Education in Pakistan”, a collaboration between MIT and the Education Development Center (EDC).