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Cooking with Quadratics

In her article, “Cooking with Quadratics,” published in the November 2010 issue of Mathematics Teacher, Luajean Bryan examines the math behind solar cookers. Bryan’s students at Walker Valley High School in Cleveland, TN, designed solar cookers and analyzed their properties using Vernier sensors.

The cookers are three-dimensional parabolic dishes designed through the understanding of quadratic equations. After the cooker was built, the students inserted a temperature probe into a marshmallow. They then placed the marshmallow at the focus and collected temperature data as the marshmallow cooked.

Students used EasyTemp temperature probes with TI graphing calculators to collect the data. They then imported the data into Logger Pro for further analysis. Bryan finds that the activity is very valuable because it “requires students to analyze nonroutine situations using algebra, analytical thinking, technology, and teamwork.”

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