Our students (and staff!) have so many feelings about the MTA, mostly disappointment and frustration. At the start of this semester, I wondered how I could create the final project for my Calculus to allow for them to:

  • Share their personal lived experiences
  • Personally connect to the content
  • See themselves as critical agents of change

Our classes had read articles about the declining state of the MTA, the increasing delays of trains during morning rush hour times, the congestion pricing plan set forth by the Mayor, as well as the idea that richer neighborhoods are impacted less by subway train delays. This certainly allowed for students to share their personal lived experiences (read: frustrations and hatred) as well as seeing themselves as critical agents of change. The latter was difficult to make happen, because of the below.

My original idea was to task students with collecting position over time data while riding subway trains during their morning, rush hour commute and then analyze that data to be able to tweet at the MTA, the Mayor, and/or other stakeholders with proposals for improvement ideas to the MTA. Using this data, the idea was for students to find the average velocity (project 1), instantaneous velocity (project 2), and acceleration (project 3). After trying numerous iPhone apps, none worked and displayed the data in a format that would allow for the original position function needed to do the rest of the calculations and analysis. I also tried various speedometer apps to no avail; I’ve tried tracker, google science tracker, phyphox, among others. If you know of a good app that will collect data without the use of wifi (for when the trains go underground and service cuts out) and displays the data over time as a table or scatterplot – Please. Let. Me. Know! My less authentic work around for the time being was to create velocity vs. time data that modeled a bell curve which we could use a quadratic regression function to then find a derivative and/or integral of.

I had difficulty connecting this content to the idea of suggesting improvements for the MTA/Mayor. Please send any ideas my way on making that connection more explicit in terms of content!