My mom wasn’t good at math, so I probably won’t be either! When am I ever going to use this in the real world? Math sucks! I don’t get it! Find X??
We’ve all heard, said, or even felt these sayings deep down in our soul at one point or another. I too myself have said these words multiple times in elementary, middle, high school and even college. The reason I became a teacher is so that students didn’t have to feel the same way about math that I did. Math is more than just numbers and words in a textbook. Math really is everywhere, but until we allow students to explore math in the real world, it will just be numbers and words in a workbook.
This year in 5th and 6th grade, my goal has been to do just that. Through project-based learning, I have been able to show students the gift of math and how it applies to everyday life in different ways. Project-based learning is a way for students to use the skills they have acquired in class and apply it to real life while collaborating, researching, building, and having fun.
The first project we did in the 5th and 6th grade this year was a small and simple project called “Let’s Go Shopping.” Students were given a budget of $50 and asked to look through grocery store sales papers to buy breakfast, lunch, and dinner for their family. Students then had to calculate what percentage of their money was spent on each item, estimate how much money was spent in total, and then find the total. Through this activity, they had to multiply and add decimals, estimate, and find percentages of a total. For the 6th graders, students were able to calculate the unit rate for each item. This was only a two-day project, but the class really enjoyed it, and they learned how important math is in an everyday activity, such as grocery shopping.
The next project I decided to do was called “Plan a Vacation.” This project required pairs of students to collaborate and plan a three-night vacation for 2 anywhere in the U.S. Their budget was set at $2000. They were required to plan everything and the cost including plane tickets, rental cars, gas, food, and even attractions. This simple, yet fun activity, was presented via Google slides to the class after a month of planning and preparation. Some students were extremely frugal, and some chose to spend every dollar. At the end of the project, each student wrote a reflection and almost everyone mentioned how thankful they were because they realized how much time, money, and effort their parents put into planning their vacations.
The next project for 5th graders requires baking, fractions, and mixed numbers. 6th graders will be getting an end of the year project that will incorporate all the math skills they have learned over the past few years and is sure to leave a lasting math memory. These projects are excellent ways to show students how math is applied in the real world, and that it doesn’t have to be a painful learning experience.