Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I Used Applied Math to Dig Deeper with My Students!

As a seventh-grade math teacher, I spend a lot of time creating lessons to foster math communication in my classroom.

This week, instead of creating a lesson, we used an Applied Mathematics investigative problem. I’m thrilled with how my students responded, and I didn’t have to create/Google it myself.

We are adding and subtracting integers. I chose activity 7-17: Add and Subtract Numbers on a Number Line. The critique and precision problem for this activity gave my students real context for positive and negative numbers.

What It Looked Like
Students found the halfway point between items that were found in or around the lake, based on the chart. They had to look at the halfway point between the rock ledge (-43 feet) and the foot bridge (36 feet).

This led us to a discussion about what positive and negative numbers mean in this situation. One of my students answered, “the lake is sea level.” When I asked her to elaborate she said, “Because the lake is at sea level, the elevation there is zero.”

Through more classroom discussion, my students grasped the idea of using "sea level" or zero to find the absolute value or the distance from zero with relation to each of these real world items.

Next, we used Classworks number line to show how to find the distance between a rock ledge and a foot bridge.

The Struggle Is Real! 
Looking at the investigative problem, students talked about their solving method compared to the ones in the problem, defended the correct solution using evidence, and explained the error made in the incorrect solution.

There was definitely some productive struggle taking place as they worked through the steps. This is one of the major benefits of these types of problems. I act as their guide as they dig to find answers.

These activities help students approach complex concepts with confidence. My students worked through the activity and got a deeper understanding of the concept than they would have if they worked a series of problems with no discussion. With one activity, I was able to hit most of the eight math practice standards!

Plus, the level of mathematical conversation that it stimulated in my classroom was amazing to facilitate!

Guest blogger:
Mary Dark, Middle Grades Math Teacher
North Carolina