One of the challenges we face as educators is providing students with opportunities to engage in meaningful learning experiences that show them how they can connect the knowledge and skills learned in school to the real world. This is particularly true in the area of traditional math instruction if most of the time spent is focused on solving a set of problems in a textbook.
In fact, traditional math instruction is often viewed by students as a series of isolated skills and concepts they must work on in order to pass a unit test to move on to the next chapter. This fragmented picture of math can lead to learning that is short-lived in many cases. Putting the acquired math skills to use in real world situations is a way to help students connect and perhaps even get excited about math.
While interdisciplinary units and project based learning are powerful methods of helping students connect school learning to the real world, I suspect many teachers reading this post might be looking for some ideas for use right away, perhaps even tomorrow. Here are some resources that are ready and waiting for use, regardless of your tech comfort zone.
This awesome website provides teachers with ready to use lessons and resources to bring real-life math into the classroom. Authored by real math teachers, Brian Marks and Leslie Lewis, the creative team at YummyMath is working hard to publish new activities every week to help teachers and students explore math in interesting and familiar real world contexts. The lessons are aligned to Common Core Standards and organized by strands, genres, grade level, and categories. The activities are designed to engage students and encourage them to reason, think critically and communicate. No special tech expertise is needed to access the activities and use them with students.
GetTheMath.org, by thirteen.org, uses short videos to demonstrate how algebra is used in the real world. The videos introduce students to real world professions that require the use of algebra. The videos explore a number of fields including music, fashion, video games, and basketball, and they feature professionals in non-traditional roles. The videos are are fun, engaging and designed to speak to students by using an interactive video game format. Each video includes a problem-solving challenge for students to complete and it also provides extended learning opportunities. The website also includes lesson plans and professional development videos for teachers. Use this site to capture the interest of middle school and high school students.
The popular YouTube based learning platform supports a growing video library of amazing educational videos, with a series titled Math in Real Life. The “Find and Flip” feature of TedED allows users to easily create customized lesson around any YouTube video. Teachers can add a variety of questions, notes, discussion starters and resources to help students dig deeper into the content presented. Start by exploring some of the lessons created by other educators, then explore videos available in YouTube and use the TedED tools to create your own connected math videos. Share your flipped videos through a variety of social media platforms or by embedding them into a website or online learning platform.
This outstanding resource explores real world math through challenges and concepts presented in the the virtual world of Google Earth, with occasional help from SketchUp. The lessons build on traditional classroom instruction by providing students with real world scenarios that engage them in the application of concepts combined with problem-solving. The lessons are technology based, so they can be used in the classroom or completed at home. There are a variety of different types of lessons to choose from.
- Concept lessons are designed to target specific math concepts, often in real world settings and situations.
- Measurement lessons demonstrate how linear measurement can be applied to real world problems.
- Project-Based Learning activities are intended to build upon previous knowledge and offer opportunities to utilize it.
- Exploratory lessons go beyond traditional textbook mathematics that focus arithmetic, algebra, and geometry to include a wide range of investigations into math topics that are utilized in the real world.
- Space lessons connect math with science and extend the learning to outer space through the use of Google Sky, Moon and Mars.
When we help students understand how the work we do in school is related to their own world, we personalize learning. When we provide students with opportunities to apply the learning and use the acquired skills for reasons beyond passing a test or getting a good grade, we inspire them to love learning!