Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Math Projects for Real Life

teamworkIn Math Homework is a Hot Topic from Educationally Minded, Anthony states,

“So my thought is that math PBL will include students having small “projects” to figure out math. Then after a few projects they will have one large project that covers many of the smaller ones and how they work together. That’s math! It continues to build on upon earlier aspects.”

This reminded me of two fun projects my students did that incorporated math skills into real life situations.

Project 1: Scale Models

First we talked about architects or engineers who sometimes use scale models to show what possibilities their client may have. We talked about how scale models are made and what scale models we have actually seen. Then we talked about making a scale model of our school and what process we would use to make one. We had to decide up on the scale we wanted to use and what materials we would use. Once we decided on this, the students broke up into teams and divided parts of the school to build. Each group had a foreman and a recorder as well as a worker but all three were expected to do their share of work. Some of the students even made an appointment with the plant engineer to talk about some measurements that we couldn’t do on our own. Throughout the project, someone in the group needed to document all the steps the group followed. When tasks were doled out, the name of the person responsible for getting that information was also written down. This project lasted a month and the students really enjoyed it. It was thrilling when the scale model was displayed in the library for the student body to see. It was also important to evaluate the project after we finished seeing what the students felt worked, didn’t work, or needed to be changed.

Project 2: Plan a Trip

At sometime in every person’s life, they will go on a trip. It may be a short trip or a long trip and may even involve overnight stays. Students had to plan a trip for their family. Many people usually get a week off from work so we decided to plan a week’s vacation. Students had to choose a destination anywhere in the United States (I didn’t use foreign countries for the first project because then we would have to deal with foreign money and the exchange rate) and plan a trip for their entire family. They had to include getting there and back, accommodations, food, transportation during the week, activities and places to see (including admission costs). The student had to turn in an itinerary and cost analysis. I was able to get outdated books from AAA which helped with the planning in addition to the internet. Students were very excited about planning their trip and I heard them talking about this many times during the week. At the end of the week, they told the class about their trip including the places they would visit and the cost. For many, it was an eye opening experience because they didn’t realize how expensive some of the places they wanted to go to cost. Now, some understood why their parents had not taken them there. I even had some comments from parents that this project was discussed at the dinner table and suggestions were made from family members. Again, it was important after the project was finished to evaluate what worked, didn’t work, or needed to be changed.

I felt both of these projects taught the students more than if we worked out of a textbook to study measurement and money. These projects were more relevant than problems written in a book. I have heard from former students who even remember doing these projects so I felt the lessons made an impression on them.

What math projects have you used in your class? How did your students react to them?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Teamwork' by: Andrew Becraft


Henrietta Miller said...

I have completed a successful math project with my grade 5 students. Where each student had an IKEA catalogue (furniture and home-wares) and they had to design their dream bedroom. They then had to cost the room and create a birds-eye view to scale drawing. That one was great fun and they loved it. i have also had them plan and cost a dream party. Another fun one. make maths fun I say.

loonyhiker said...

@Henrietta That sounds like a great project! Thanks for sharing! (I have never been to an IKEA before but I hear it is great!)