Monday, February 6, 2012

Use Real World Math Problems to Engage Your Students

I highly recommend checking out Bradley Lands’ blog.
Like Dan Meyer, he believes in connecting math to real life applications! (I had the chance to hear Dan Meyer present at the AIMS conference in Baltimore this fall and he was inspiring.) Lands lists his favorite 25 Math resources on his blog.  While connecting to real world applications can involve complex math appropriate for upper and middle school, there are ideas to be gleamed for the elementary level.
 Just last week, my colleagues and I used data from the Yummymath  website to conduct data lessons on Ground Hog’s Day and the Super Bowl. Needless to say, the Super Bowl data was popular. Today one of our third grade teachers (Maurice Tome) made up a series of Super Bowl problems based on the data from last night’s game that immediately had the students’ attention.  Teasing out the various structures for addition and subtraction problems, Mr. Tome had the students check off a category in a box  next to each word problem indicating whether they were determining the (a) Whole/Total (b) Missing Part or (c) Difference.  Building on their work with open number lines and Singapore Bar models, the students compared the total yards thrown by Quarterbacks Manning and Brady during the playoffs and the super bowl solving a series of problems.
It takes a little creativity to write your own problems using names, places and situations that will resonate with your students but it makes math relevant and engaging for them.  By checking out the links Land’s blog provides, elementary school teachers, as well as middle and high school level teachers, can be inspired to make math more meaningful for their students.

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