The math folks, minus Mr. Gilmartin who was lost in history, got together with Laurie Olmsted, media specialist in Birmingham Public Schools to discuss a possible lesson plan we could build around the "soda ban." I was struck by how different the projects were. The pure mathematician in me was intrigued with Kathlyen's rolling cup geometry problem. Half of us had statistical problems in mind: gathering the views of consumers, lexical analysis of the respected sources on the web, and a two-week clinical trial examining the actual effect on soda consumption if large sodas are banned.
Laurie had good suggestions for where we could data for our project (e.g. MeL), and helped us with the scope. Google Docs is pretty amusing to use when there are six people editing simultaneously, but after the giggling died down, it became apparent we were connecting in a way that is better than conversation (which devolves quickly in a small space if there is more than channel open), or chat (where you are focused on the tip of the discussion). I can imagine some interesting classroom activities built around parallel development of a document. But I digress.
After the class merged, we discussed our project with the history group. They observed that our chosen project (the clinical trials) didn't seem to be answering the right question. Don't we want to know whether the ban will reduce obesity? That's true. It's also a very difficult problem. Observing changes in obesity would take, at a minimum, months. This in turn would make it more difficult to get participants. However, the effect of soda consumption on obesity has already been studied. So if the students can determine the link from the ban to soda consumption, then they can make inferences about the effect of the ban on obesity. The debate helped refine our thinking.