Calculating Continental Drift
Global Positioning System
Scripps Orbit and Permanent Array Center
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Contributing Teacher: Geoff Hagopian, College of the
Desert, November, 12, 2000
Suggested Grade Level: This activity is appropriate
for second semester calculus or, with some modifications, Introductory
Time Required: About a week
Materials and Technology Needed: Internet access and
Safety Considerations: Keep clear of hackers and Dubya
Teacher Preparation: Carefully read through and perform
all the exercises before foisting this on the trusting and unsuspecting
Objectives and Learning Outcomes: Students will learn
how methods of smoothing and noise reduction with satellite observation
data can be used to demonstrate principles of the plate tectonics paradigm.
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to discover
how methods of smoothing and error analysis can be used to process raw
Procedure: See this web site.
Results/Analysis: Most of the problems involve essentially
filling in little baby steps and so the resuls are mostly built into the
narrative. The finally resolution to the paradox of rising and falling
at the same time is that, while the bedrock may be rising, subsidence of
the the aquifer, an underground layer of porous rock, sand or other matter
that contains water, may exceed that rise, causing a net drop in elevation.
In fact, the subsidence may be greater than reported if the rising of the
bedrock has not been included in calculations.
Teacher Reflections: Wow. This turned out to
be a lot to chew. I learned a lot, but I need to learn more before
foisting this on my trusting students.
Extensions: The exercises from the NASA
site are geared to a lower level, but are quite well done.
Assessment Suggestions: I would need to have this polished
quite a bit more before I assigned it to anyone. As such, there's
not much to say about the assessment except that it will take a long time
to read all the papers...
Standards Addressed: I have my daughter's Sixth
Grade Standards for Success pamphlet. It's interesting to see
how many of these apply to this, what I consider college-level work:
1.0 Students make decisions about how to approach problems;
1.1analyze problems by identifying relationships, discriminating relevant
from irrelevant information, identifying missing information, sequencing
and prioritizing information and observing patterns;
1.2 formulate and justigy mathematical conjectures based upon a general
description of the mathematical question or problem posed;
1.3 determine when and how to break a problem into simpler parts.
2.0 Students use strategies, skills an concepts in finding solutions;
2.1 use estimation to verify the reasonableness of calculated
2.2 apply strategies and results from simpler problems to more
2.3 estimate unknown quantities graphically and solve for them
using logical reasoning and arithmetic and algebraic techniques;
2.4 use a variety of methods such as words, numbers, symbols,
charts, graphs, tables, diagrams and models to explain mathematical reasoning;
2.5 express the solution clearly and loghically using appropriate
mathematical notation and terms and clear language and support solutions
with evidence in both verbal and symbolic work;
2.6 indicate the relative advantages of exact and approximate
solutions to problems and give and give answers to a specified degree of
2.7 make precise calculations and check the validity of the results
from the context of the problem
3.0 Students move beyond a particular problem by generalizing to other
3.1 evaluate the reasonableness of the solution in the context
of the original situation;
3.2 note method of deriving the solution and demonstrate conceptural
understanding of the derivation by solving similar problems;
3.3 develop generatlizations of the results obtained and the strategies
used and extend them to new problem situations.
References/Resources: The URLs of various resources
are woven throughout the narrative.