Making Math Meaningful
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Making Math Meaningful
"Math isn’t something you learn, but a tool you use to learn about other things."
Curated by Samantha Hines
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Real World Math Problems

Real World Math Problems | Making Math Meaningful | Scoop.it
Mathalicious lessons teach standards-based math through real-world topics that students care about.
Samantha Hines's insight:

This website is a really interesting resource with tons of lesson ideas to make math relevant and meaningful for students. The creator was a math teacher and struggled with why his students hated math. He found that their common thoughts were, “I don’t know what it means and when I’ll ever use it”. So, he decided to create standards-based math lessons that relate to relevant and real world topics. For example, you can find lessons on the NBA, the iPad, and the odds of life on other planets. Students can explore questions like, is the Wheel of Fortune rigged? Do people with smaller feet get overcharged for shoes? All of these interesting contexts still allow teachers to address more standards in less time and provide opportunities for the rich conversations all teachers strive for. The information is also presented in many different ways: handouts, multimedia resources, online interactive activities, etc. which encourages accessibility for different types of learners. As the theme seems to stand across those speaking on meaningful math, the concept behind Mathalicious is that students won’t just be learning math, they’ll be using math to learn about the real world.  Once this connection is made, I believe it provides an opportunity for much deeper learning, retention, and transfer. The lessons are also Common Core aligned. The lesson I found most intriguing was about TV and movie services such as Redbox and Netflix. The introduction states, “Between theaters, DVD’s, and Internet streaming, accessing your favorite movie has never been easier. But when you want to watch a movie, how can you figure out which service offers the most value?” By using authentic and meaningful contexts, this website lets teachers interest their students and address Common Core standards at the same time. 

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Alysia's curator insight, December 15, 2013 6:12 PM

A classmate posted the link to this website, and the introductory video is great. It makes the points we have been talking about all semester, which is that students are more motivated to learn when the topics are about the real world, and can relate to their lives. The site offers common core aligned lessons that allow teachers to connect to real world applications. The cheapest subscription is 10/month. I would be interested to know if someone has used it and if they think it is worth the paid subscription? 

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Tips for Using Project-Based Learning to Teach Math Standards

Tips for Using Project-Based Learning to Teach Math Standards | Making Math Meaningful | Scoop.it
Editor's Note: Andrew Miller is a consultant for the Buck Institute for Education, an organization that specializes in project-based curriculum.
Samantha Hines's insight:

I have always been intrigued by project-based learning because while I’ve learned about it in education courses, I’ve never experienced it as a student or seen it play out in a classroom. When thinking about ways to make math meaningful, I thought that project-based learning would be a great way to do so. This article explores the many questions on teachers’ minds who want to incorporate project-based learning into their math plans. My questions are extremely similar: How will I fit it in and still address everything else in the curriculum? How will this affect the high-stakes tests my students are required to take? What topic should I choose to focus on for the project? While all of these concerns are valid, I believe that if teachers can find a project that incorporates many parts of the curriculum, the concepts utilized will be much more meaningful for students. When students have control and responsibility over their learning from the beginning to the end of a more in-depth project, how could they not carry what they learned into other aspects as well? Project-based learning would allow students to literally see their learning and knowledge play out in real-world contexts. Project-based learning also allows for follow up which would be great for trial and error - as we’ve learned, learning should be messy. This article lists great strategies for fitting in project-based learning in math. The most interesting strategy to me was based around the idea of changing the language we use. Instead of calling all math situations ‘problems’, we can redefine the way we talk about math. We can expand students’ approaches to math issues simply by changing our language. For example, “Find the most cost effective design for a classroom, given materials and certain parameters” instantly opens up the mind much more than “Find how much money it would cost to design a classroom if we need x amount of tile and each square foot costs x amount of dollars”. With the latter language, I think that many students’ brains would automatically revert to thinking, “Ugh, let me punch in these numbers and just get the answer”. With the first prompt, it seems like more of a puzzle or a challenge that has many ways to reach a solution. I think the last sentence in this article provides the greatest reason to implement project-based learning: "Remember, if we want our students to really wrestle with rigorous math concepts, then we must create space and environment for this work to happen."

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How To Make Math Meaningful

Edutopia.org's Director of Video Programming, Zachary Fink, interviews UC Berkeley professor Dor Abrahamson about how to increase students' understanding of ...
Samantha Hines's insight:

Dor Abrahamson really drives a clear point about making math meaningful in this edutopia video. He opens the video by saying that mathematics is a way of thinking and a way of solving problems. While some may see this definition as too broad and over-arching, I think that it’s the perfect way for educators and students to see that math can be meaningful and applicable to many different contexts. If we encourage our students to see math as a way of thinking and a way of solving problems, they can see the purpose of math (how many times have I said, “When will I ever use this!?” as well as be aware that they can take what they learn in one situation and apply it to another. By making math meaningful and connecting it to students’ lives and experiences, we as educators are encouraging them to make sense of the world - not just make sense of x, y, and other numbers. Professor Abrahamson made a great point; he said that unless we can ground math concepts into something concrete, students will never get it. This just seems to be common sense - yet why don’t more teachers strive to make math meaningful? Unless we do so, math concepts and formulas and numbers are arbitrary symbols that mean absolutely nothing - and why would our brain choose to remember arbitrary things that don’t benefit us? It’s one of the basic functions of the human brain: use it or lose it. Unless students see a way to use what they’re learning in math, it can almost be guaranteed to be out of their brain days after a test. I am living proof of this notion. I had a sense of how to compute numbers, but absolutely no understanding deeper than that and no desire to acquire knowledge deeper than that. With the ever changing and demanding world we live in, educators want the same thing that Professor Abrahamson does: we want our learners to go out into the world, identify phenomena, see patterns, and use math ideals and concepts in their lives to solve problems they care about. What better way to encourage students to use math than to identify a cause they care about and something they’re intrinsically motivated to work towards (an idea for project-based learning, perhaps?) Instead of introducing students to weird number relationships (hello, fractions!) and saying, “it is that way just because”, we should instead try to get them to see the world mathematically. By seeing Professor Abrahamson work with his mathematical image trainer, I was opened to the idea that students can manipulate objects and work toward the understanding of a concept without even seeing a number. What a novel, backwards idea - but it makes perfect sense! It would be much more beneficial to introduce students to the most basic, underlying main idea of something before throwing numbers at them. This is a great way to engrain images students will carry with them instead of just numbers and procedures that they’ll forget before the end of the year. With these images, students can become masters of their mathematical knowledge so they can solve the problems of the world. 

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Corinne Tomaszewski's curator insight, December 15, 2013 11:23 AM

I agree with my colleague, Samantha, “Dor Abrahamson really drives a clear point about making math meaningful.” In this edutopia video he goes on to describe math as a way of making sense of the things around us. It is a way of thinking and a way of problem solving. So many people think of math as an equation or process and cannot see the reasoning or meaning behind the numbers. It’s the classic, “when will I ever use this?!” that we hear so often in our classrooms and have said ourselves a number of times. Making math meaningful is so important if we want our students to learn and be able to apply their knowledge later on. But that starts with making the math accessible and concrete. Throwing out numbers and equations doesn’t help; a student may know to use a specific process when problem solving to get an answer but they cannot break that process down to make meaning of what they are doing. I really like what Professor Abrahamson says about helping students connect what their brains already know how to do and the methods they are being taught so that they can do much more than just scribble number and actually really get it and apply it in the real world. I think this is where some educators may be faced with a dilemma. While this seems so obvious and important, there are limitations. With testing and miles of topics to be reached in the curriculum it can be difficult for students to reach that meaningful understanding while still getting through the curriculum and performing well on tests. I think this is why we need to really look at how students are learning math and adapt to their understandings so that we can reach the best possible outcome.  

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AH_math.pdf

Samantha Hines's insight:

While making math meaningful, teachers should also be aware of making math accessible for all of their learners in the classroom. No two students will learn the same, which is why accessibility is always a relevant focus in the classroom. In my internship experience, I’ve seen English Language Learners struggle with math simply because they cannot read instructions or worksheets. I see this as a real disadvantage, because when they cannot read or understand what’s being asked of them, their work does not reflect their true math abilities - but is graded as if it does, unfortunately. Teachers should recognize that making a conscious effort to make math accessible doesn’t only help their ELLs or students with special needs, but it supports everyone in the classroom.  What student wouldn’t benefit from clearer instructions or multiple ways to access math instruction and information? All students learn in different ways. The more accessible math is for all students, the bigger opportunity for success. This article cites research that states that mathematics has a more significant impact on the advancement of ELLs than all other content areas (other than English) and can even act as an obstacle to post-secondary education. What a profound finding - this should only encourage teachers even more to make mathematics more accessible to ELLs (and all students) throughout every grade level. Otherwise, the achievement gap will not lessen. I think one of the most important points made in this article surrounds the idea of ‘unpacking the problem’. By starting at the beginning and breaking down what’s being asked, I think that this is the best way to set students up for success. By making connections between previous learning and unique features of the new problem, calling out and defining language terms, and connecting students to what’s being asked, we can make math more accessible. By implementing the strategies in this article and being aware of the importance of accessibility in math, I sincerely think educators can close the gap for English Language Learners. 

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Making Math Meaningful with Online Games and Videos

Making Math Meaningful with Online Games and Videos | Making Math Meaningful | Scoop.it
By Almetria Vaba Math can be made meaningful when connected to students’ experiences. With video clips and interactive games from public media students pra
Samantha Hines's insight:

In today’s world of endless electronic devices, teachers can use technology to their advantage in making math meaningful. With the variety of interactive activities and games available online, we as educators can connect math to students’ personal experiences. Already, we’re making math more meaningful. This allows students to explore math concepts while focusing their knowledge in a different context. This transfer of information is crucial to deeper understanding in all subject areas, not just math. This website provides several links to online resources that give students the opportunity to practice math in real world situations. My favorite resource on this page addresses fractions in terms of baking cupcakes (link here) and can be adapted for grades 4-8. Fractions were the beginning of my dislike for math, and probably still is for students today as well. For students, fractions can easily seem like arbitrary information. Now that I’m on the other side of education, I can see how it would also be difficult for teachers to deliver instruction about fractions because of the various complex natures of the topic. By manipulating recipes and relating fractions to a real-life situation (baking), students can see the purpose for understanding fractions.

 

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