I taught a Preliminary General Mathematics class (to 15-17 year olds) in 2012 for the first time in a while. I wanted to do project based learning to engage and show students the application of maths to the "real" world. I was able to use my experience from teaching using projects in computing courses.
I set the students an open project, where they had to identify, research and present to, or teach the class a "Real World" application of Mathematics. I worked with each student to identify an application of Mathematics that was relevant to them. Some examples of projects included:
- developing budgets for buying a car, moving out of home
- development of games based on trigonometry
- the maths of measuring required medicine (the student wanted to be a nurse)
- the maths of baking (the student worked in a bakery)
One of the students came up with the idea to look at the Mathematics of "Smarties". Yes, the small round coloured chocolates. She started from the point that she would buy a family packet of Smarties, give each student one of the small boxes of Smarties and then get the class to investigate the mathematics of Smarties.
I had fun working with her, identifying all the elements of Mathamatics she could research and present. In the end she could have covered a large part of the HSC General Mathematics syllabus through "Smarties". Some these included:
- averages (how many Smarties did everyone get?)
- estimation (how many Smarties are in the boxes?)
- weight (how heavy is each smartie?)
- statistics (mean, mode, median, of the total Smarties and each colour)
- graphing (statistics)
- probability (of getting a certain number of Smarties in each box)
- do you eat the red ones last? (actually, the last one was not in the syllabus)
She then worked through the possible mathematics she could use, developing draft worksheets that students/class would work through looking at the mathematics of Smarties, getting feedback after each version. In the process of creating the worksheets (and answers) she developed an in-depth understanding of the mathematical concepts she covered.
In the end she delivered an activity (mini-lesson) to the whole class.
1. She gave out a packet of Smarties to each student
2. Students then had to make estimations about the packets of Smarties, including
- How many Smarties would be in their package?
- Would there be the same number of coloured Smarties in their packet?
- Would each package contain the same number of Smarties?
3. Then the students opened their packets and tallied their number of each of the colours.
4. Then a class tally was created from each students' tally.
5. From these tallies students created graphs and analysed the data.
6. The class then reflected on their individual and class data, to see how close their initial estimations were
7. Lastly they ate the Smarties.
It ended up being an engaging activities for all the students and a great fun way to Smarten up the students!
I gave feedback to the students using goals, medals and missions. This was great, easy way to give concrete feedback to students.
What would I do differently?
I would get each student to develop their own driving questions and set up individual goals.