Classroom/ Laboratory Activity: Teaching Polynomial Differentiation with Arctic Sea Ice Data

person pointing paper line graph
Photo by Lukas on

A classroom/ laboratory activity titled, ‘Arctic Sea Ice’ from Sustainability Math by Thomas J. Pfaff, Ithaca College, USA, to teach introductory derivatives, polynomial differentiation, and the application of derivatives. This hands-on computer-based classroom activity consists of datasets of Arctic Ice Data (1980-2017). 

This classroom activity includes three datasets of the extent of Arctic Sea Ice linked from NSIDC’s observations from 1980 to 2017. This data is provided in an Excel spreadsheet. The classroom activity also includes a Word document that contains directions on how to use different mathematical methods on the data provided.

Students will be able to apply their understanding of sixth degree polynomial differentiation, maxima/minima values, finding roots and inflection points through the use of datasets from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). They will further be able to initiate a discussion on the decrease in extent of Arctic Sea Ice due to the Ice Albedo Feedback and anthropogenically forced Global Warming through the links provided in the tool.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. Using an example, describe polynomial differentiation.
  2. Has the speed of melting of Arctic Sea Ice changed from 1980- 2017?
  3. Discuss the Ice Albedo Feedback and Global Warming to explain the differences in rates of melting of and extent of Arctic Sea Ice over the past four decades.

About the Tool

Tool NameArctic Sea Ice
DisciplineMathematic and Statistics 
Topic(s) in DisciplineDerivatives, Polynomial Differentiation, Function Graph, Extrema, Concavity, Roots, Inflection Points, Albedo Feedback, Global Warming
Climate TopicClimate and the Cryosphere; Climate Variability Record
Type of toolClassroom/Laboratory Activity
Grade LevelHigh School, Undergraduate
Developed byThomas J. Pfaff
Hosted atSustainability Math 
AccessOnline, Offline
Computer SkillsBasic
%d bloggers like this: