An Innovative Take on Math

Middle School math teachers and students dove into creative learning experiences and math projects this spring. And while having fun, they reviewed important math concepts in a true project-based-learning style.

Imagine playing a board game where the goal is to collect the pieces required to build a robot to save your captured 7th grade teachers—and review math concepts at the same time. That’s exactly what one group of 7th graders were up to during one of Mr. Dustin Delfin‘s lesson plans. Students designed board games to help them review what they’ve learned in class, an alternate (and fun) way to prepare for their cumulative assessments.

Some of the games included “Sneak, Take, Steal,” a game where students needed to answer math questions in order to get closer to the treasure; “Strategic Stackers,” similar to Jenga where students stacked blocks and incorporated math concepts at the same time; and “Freestyle Math Olympics,” where students had to choose the most efficient route down a mountain to reach the finish line first.

Meanwhile, the 8th grade students engaged in some interactive activities to explore statistics in both Ms. Krystal White and Mr. Lev Guter‘s 8th Grade Accelerated Math Classes. While studying how to represent data using scatter plots and lines of best fit, the students engaged in data collection labs. One experiment involved dropping water balloons, tethered to rubber bands, from a set point and recording the distance the balloon dropped with an increasing number of rubber bands. Reportedly, there was only one casualty—a busted water balloon! Other experiments measured how many pennies it takes to “break” a paper bridge and a third measured how many jumping jacks a student can complete in three minutes.

“Data collection and statistical analysis allow students to experience math in real-life ways. Real-life math is messy. The numbers don’t come out quite in the way you had predicted, answers are rarely whole numbers, and often the answers you get spark more questions,” said Ms. White. “Having the students consider the variables, conduct their own labs, collect the data, represent the data and analyze the results are inherently more challenging tasks than using pre-prepared data that a textbook would provide.”

In addition, 8th grade students concluded their statistics unit by collecting and analyzing data of their own choosing. For instance, students tried to answer the questions “Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away?” and “Does the length of a Reddit username impact the individual’s reddit karma?” and “How does the height of a drop affect whether a bottle lands upright?”

Ms. White shared, “Providing students the creative choice to apply their skills in whatever way interested them had diverse and interesting results for the whole class to experience.”