Math Sightings

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    Students in our mathematics classes sometimes ask us, “When will I ever need to know this stuff?” It’s a question that has many answers depending on who has asked the question and why. My favorite answer, though, is this: “When you understand this math your life will be more interesting. Let's take a look . . .” These stories and lesson sketches, focused in the middle and high school grades, are meant to help your students extend their view of the world a little bit by using math to make sense of experiences in daily life. Behind each of these lessons is a story. With math as a tool, the world is a more awesome project. 

    Author Info:  

    Mark Roddy is a faculty member focusing on mathematics and science education in the Master in Teaching program at Seattle University. He also works with the Washington State Mathematics Council, where some of these ideas first appeared in “Washington Mathematics.”  


      Dollar Store Math Tiny Cover  

    Dollar Store Math

    If you have taught math and you have shopped at the dollar store, how about combining the two? In this lesson students use toys from the dollar store to construct understanding of central data analysis and linear trends. Read the story behind Dollar Store Math here

    Flat Cans Tiny Cover  

    Flat Cans  

    Aluminum cans get thrown out and run over – flattened. And when they do they provide a vehicle for students to construct their understanding of some important aspects of volume and surface area. Read the story behind Flat Cans here.

      Forecast Accuracy Tiny Cover  

    Forecast Accuracy  

    People are apt to complain about weather forecasts and their accuracy. This is your chance to do something about them – or at least to understand their accuracy. In this lesson, students will gather data and crunch numbers to find out whether the weather forecasters are doing their jobs. Read the story behind Forecast Accuracy here.

    Leafy Math Tiny Cover

    Leafy Math


    Leaves are everywhere and they’re awesome. Let students gather up some of their own and use them in your classroom to develop a clearer understanding of reflection (line) symmetry. Read the story behind Leafy Math here.

      Natural Packages Tiny Cover  

    Natural Packages  

    Nature packages things in peels and shells and other sorts of outer wrappings that we just throw away or compost. People package things in bags and boxes and cans and so forth. Which kinds of packages are the most efficient? Learners have fun with food as they develop a clear conceptual basis of understanding of percentages. Read the story behind Natural Packages here.

      Sunny Shady Tiny Cover  

    Sunny & Shady Math  

    If it's hot outside how much good does it do to move to the shade? In this investigation students gather, organize and analyze temperature data from sun and shade, and then build their understanding of some standard ways to represent a set of numbers with statistics such as the median, mean and the interquartile range. Read the story behind Sunny & Shady Math here.

      Tidal Math Tiny Cover  

    Tidal Math  

    Tides are phenomenal forces at work on our watery planet every day and all the time. As they tune in to tides at stations of their own choosing students will develop conceptual understanding of how a rate may be represented as the slope of a graph. Read the story behind Tidal Math here.

    Tree Trunk Math Tiny Cover

    Tree Trunk Math  

    Could Becca Swanson, current women’s deadlift record holder, lift that tree trunk? That depends on the volume and the density. In this investigation students gather some tree data and construct their understanding of the formula for the volume of a cylinder and the role that density plays in determining weight. Read the story behind Tree Trunk Math here.


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