Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2013 NCTM Conference: "Keeping It Real: Teaching Math through Real-World Topics"

2013 NCTM Conference (4/18/13 - 12:30 pm - Karim Kai Ani):
Karim from gave an awesome presentation on the value of "real-world" math to engage students in the mathematics classroom. Karim suggested that math has become very distasteful in our society, "a recipe to something no one wants to eat". He suggested that we need to make math "delicious" again by engaging students in math through topics that they find interesting.

Karim suggested that students today look at math as a bunch of arbitrary rules that somebody made up to torture people for thousands of years. On the contrary, students who explore math based in real life will be more interested in how math works and will be more likely to participate and ask questions.

Karim showed attendees some example lessons from that teachers can use in their classroom. The first example he demonstrated was using the Domino's web site to graph the cost of each topping on a medium Domino's pizza. The site doesn't describe the cost of a single topping, but through mathematical evaluation, students can find the cost of each topping and predict the cost of a five topping pizza. The teacher can build on these findings to develop the concepts of slope and the slope-intercept equation of a line (where the y-intercept is the price of a cheese pizza, and the slope is the cost per topping). Students can also compare the graphs of medium, large, and small pizzas.

Karim suggested that teachers can use videos, movies, internet sites, and hands-on applications of science, as well as many other applications of math, to make mathematics more real to students. The world is an interesting place, and there are a plethora of interesting questions to ask. Math is the tool we use to explore these questions.

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