Skip to main content

Truly Devious: Project Based Learning Meets Murder Mystery

It’s unanimous, everyone that reads here is a huge fan of ‘Truly Devious’ by Maureen Johnson.  I found out about the book somewhere on author twitter last year a month or so before Christmas.  I thought it would appeal to my partner because she’s into mysteries, but I also thought it might appeal to the 8 y.o. reader here since it’s in the young adult book category.  When Christmas rolled around, I still hadn’t figured out who the book was for, so it kinda became a present for all of us.  My partner read it first, then No. One, the 8 y.o., and finally me.

The book has a twisted time stream, and takes place in two eras.  The official crime of the book, the one the protagonist originally sets out to solve is a kidnapping/murder that took place at the start of the 20th century.  As the story carries on though, the bodies start to pile up in the present time as well.  Are the new deaths murders or accidents?  Are they related to the original murder decades ago?  That’s part of the mystery!

As an unschooling parent I appreciated the setting of the story.  Ellingham Academy is set in the mountains of Vermont, and while it’s not an unschooling conclave or even a Sudbury school, it has aspects of both.  It’s a project based learning institution where kids register for classes that support their chosen projects.  To me it’s reminiscent of the learning environments Ira Socol, Pam Moran, and Chad Ratliff wrote about in their nonfiction book, ‘Timeless Learning’.  It helps that the academy is a boarding school so the characters of the book have even greater autonomy.

The book rolls along at a captivating pace that never slows down.  As it evolves, we learn more and more about the various students, but we never enough to reveal the whole story.  Or do we?  The book is the first in a three part series.  It’s followed by ‘The Vanishing Stair’, and this January the final installment will arrive, “The Hand on the Wall.”  The kids and I will be reading the first book as our bedtime story for the next few weeks as we get ready for the new book to turn up after the New Year!

One final note.  This tome is totally a gateway book!  The kid is now interested in all nature of mysteries, and has taken to reading books by other mystery authors like Agatha Christie and K.B. Spangler.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Cool Math Tricks: Deriving the Divergence, (Del or Nabla) into New (Cylindrical) Coordinate Systems

Now available as a Kindle ebook for 99 cents! Get a spiffy ebook, and fund more physics
The following is a pretty lengthy procedure, but converting the divergence, (nabla, del) operator between coordinate systems comes up pretty often. While there are tables for converting between common coordinate systems, there seem to be fewer explanations of the procedure for deriving the conversion, so here goes!

What do we actually want?

To convert the Cartesian nabla



to the nabla for another coordinate system, say… cylindrical coordinates.



What we’ll need:

1. The Cartesian Nabla:



2. A set of equations relating the Cartesian coordinates to cylindrical coordinates:



3. A set of equations relating the Cartesian basis vectors to the basis vectors of the new coordinate system:



How to do it:

Use the chain rule for differentiation to convert the derivatives with respect to the Cartesian variables to derivatives with respect to the cylindrical variables.

The chain rule can be used to convert a differe…

Division: Distributing the Work

Our unschooling math comes in bits and pieces.  The oldest kid here, seven year-old No. 1 loves math problems, so math moves along pretty fast for her.  Here’s how she arrived at the distributive property recently.  Tldr; it came about only because she needed it.
“Give me a math problem!” No. 1 asked Mom-person.

“OK, what’s 18 divided by 2?  But, you’re going to have to do it as you walk.  You and Dad need to head out.”

And so, No. 1 and I found ourselves headed out on our mini-adventure with a new math problem to discuss.

One looked at the ceiling of the library lost in thought as we walked.  She glanced down at her fingers for a moment.  “Is it six?”

“I don’t know, let’s see,” I hedged.  “What’s two times six?  Is it eighteen?”

One looked at me hopefully heading back into her mental math.

I needed to visit the restroom before we left, so I hurried her calculation along.  “What’s two times five?”

I got a grin, and another look indicating she was thinking about that one.

I flashed eac…

The Javascript Google URL Shortener Client API

I was working with the Google API Javascript Client this week to shorten the URLs of Google static maps generated by my ham radio QSL mapper. The client interface provided by Google is very useful. It took me a while to work through some of the less clear documentation, so I thought I'd add a few notes that would have helped me here. First, you only need to authenticate your application to the url shortener application if you want to track statistics on your shortened urls. If you just want the shortened URL, you don't need to worry about this. The worst part for me was that the smaple code only showed how to get a long url from an already shortened rul. If you follow the doucmentaiotn on the insert method, (the method for getting a shortened url from a long one), there is a reference to a rather nebulous Url resource required argument. It's not at all clear how to create one of these in Javascript. The following example code shows how:
var request = gapi.clie…