There are many ways to bring math into the classroom through current events and seasonal happenings. Use these project-driven ideas to foster student understanding of real-world applications of math.
1) Gas Prices Are Dropping
One of the most talked about topics in the news right now is dropping gas prices. This trend is ripe for math classroom activities. Kick off the project with a brainstorm of why students think gas prices are dropping. The short answer is increased production (including American shale) and decreased demand (due to alternative energy sources). After discussing their predictions students can be sent to research the answer. Next, challenge students to determine how much money their family is saving weekly on gas, taking into account car gas mileage and driving habits. Alternatively, have students randomly select driver profiles and patterns, either commuting to and from work or planning a family vacation. To create driver profiles create cards that indicate the car’s gas mileage and average driving habits. Great (ad free) resources for gas price information, both current and historical, can be found here and here. Furthermore, lots of interesting charts, tables and graphs to fuel additional activities can be found here.
2) New Year’s Resolutions
According to a University of Scranton study, only 8% of people are successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions. In better news, those who do make a New Year’s resolution are 10 times more likely to make a change in their lives than those who don’t (read more here). To connect New Year’s resolutions to math class, group students together and challenge each to design ways to measure the New Year’s resolution process. Some areas for inquiry include the number of people making resolutions, the types of resolutions people are making and how many people will succeed. Each group should prepare a defense of their research design and explain why it will result in an accurate and insightful measurement. Next, each group should enact their plan. Depending on their design there may be multiple data collection points through the New Year. Once data has been collected, it should be analyzed and displayed by students using charts, tables and graphs. To wrap up the project consider sharing the University of Scranton data with students as a point of comparison.
3) Holiday Meals
Special food and family recipes make holiday time special for many. Challenge groups of students to create a meal of their own. To get started, students should randomly select a family size and budget from pre-written slips of paper. Next, with this information in mind, students should use either web search, cookbooks, or store circulars to determine what they will serve and how much it will cost. Many grocery stores have grocery deliver websites where students can find prices as well. Submitted projects should include recipes with ingredient portions reflecting family size, as well as the estimated cost per person. For recipes that must be increased, students should include both the original and modified list of ingredients.