“When will I use this in real life?”
This is the infamous question that many students ask math teachers. The math department at Greenwood uses that question as motivation to change the stereotype that math is only useful for mathematicians. Our hope is that by making mathematics applicable to real life and more meaningful to each student, students will be able to answer this question themselves: math is used each and every day by everybody.In the split-level college preparation mathematics course (MBF3C/MAP4C), we have just completed our first project-based learning unit. In this unit, students learned about scale diagrams, units of measurement, optimization and cost estimation by designing a new kitchen.
Students posed as designers for HGTV, with the task of designing and planning a kitchen renovation. They were given a floor plan and dimensions for an existing kitchen, as well as an allowable area for an optional extension. The students had to interview their client (a Greenwood teacher) to determine his preferences, taste and needs for his new kitchen.
Students then used the program Homestyler to create both 2D and 3D scale diagrams with many views of their design. Lastly, they had to present their design using a sales pitch to a panel which included the client.
Rather than completing lessons on topics and then completing a project as follow up, in this project-based unit, students:
- Had a real-life goal with a specific role and audience;
- Determined which mathematical skills they needed to learn to achieve the goal; and
- Accessed several resources to determine required information or to find inspiration for their designs.
This project was personalized for each student. They received the necessary structures to be successful, the freedom to work at their own pace, a variety of resources to access information and complete control of the creativity of their design and sales pitch.
Erica Keaveney, a student in MAP4C, says “The project was very hands-on and realistic. I enjoyed it because I was able to be creative with my design, but also learned skills I will use in real life.”