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Teaching Differential Calculus (Application of Derivatives) using Arctic Sea Ice Data


As a high school or undergraduate Mathematics teacher, you can use this set of computer-based tools to help you in teaching introductory differential calculus and specifically the application of derivatives.

This lesson plan will allow you to teach introductory derivatives, polynomial differentiation, and the application of derivatives. The lesson plan includes a hands-on computer-based classroom activity to be conducted on datasets of Arctic Ice Data (1980-2017). This activity includes a set of inquiry-based questions that will enable your students to apply their understanding of sixth degree polynomial differentiation, maxima/minima values, finding roots and inflection points.

Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Mathematics.

(top) Sea ice concentration (light blue to white) on September 18, 2019, the day of the summer minimum extent. The gold line is the median extent for 1981-2010: half of years had smaller extents, half had larger. (bottom) A graph of daily ice extent each year of the satellite record. Earlier years are in shades of light blue; recent years are in dark blue. The 2019 daily extent line is in dark pink. NOAA Climate.gov image, based on data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Learning Outcome

The tools in this lesson plan will enable students to:

  1. Learn about derivatives and their application in comparing rates
  2. Understand the derivative function graph and related terms such as extrema, roots, and inflection points
  3. Use function graphs to observe changes in rates of melting and the extent of Arctic Sea Ice in given datasets


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