Monday, September 3, 2012


For many students, math classes consist of textbook activities and regular assessments.  Due to the pressures of state assessments, high school exit exams, PSAT, SAT, etc., teachers are under a great deal of pressure to stick with the text.  This type of instructional delivery will be changing over the next two years in that now students will be able to SEE how, for example, quadratic equations are used in the real world outside of the math class.  Relevance will be a major component of the new math class.  Teachers might be able to share with kids what they really love about math, what inspired them to pursue studies here and not in another discipline, etc.  Hopefully their love of the subject will catch fire in their classrooms:)

So, how does a teacher bring in project based learning projects into a math class?  Here are some good examples to start with:  statistics, geometry, algebra, and trigonometry.  PROJECT-students are to design a shopping mall.  Notice that for each activity, students are going from known (ex. the structure of a shopping mall) to the unknown (how to use prior knowledge with newly acquired math tools to construct a totally new version of a mall). They will be taking on roles of architects who must design different store sizes to accommodate the needs of prospective merchants, restrooms that allow for minimal care, landscaping within the mall for customers to sit and relax in, an original layout that will draw shoppers, etc.  Math is naturally woven throughout the project.   Since this would be a team effort, each member in the small group could focus on one component of the mall with the understanding that individuals must report out to the group and reach a consensus on the final design.  Students should keep detailed notes on their results and how they arrived at their project contributions.  (ELLs especially would benefit from this since they would be actively acquiring academic vocabulary within context.)  Such skills would easily transfer to the global workforce these students will be a part of when they finish their formal studies.  See the link for some additional ideas.PROJECT BASED LEARNING ACTIVITIES IN MATH CLASSROOMS

One suggestion I would offer is that if this approach is new, start out small.  Make notes on what worked and what didn't.  Move on to next project and keep a little journal on how it worked out.  Hang in there.  I guarantee that students will never forget the experience.  Who knows?  There may be some future astronauts, astronomers, architects, engineers, etc. in the class. 


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