To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Subject: Real-Life Math Applications, etc
I have used newspapers in several different ways: 1. Articles often relate to something specific that we are doing. For example, I might copy and use the weather report, along with problems that I create, for calculations with integers (winter weather in our area involves highs above zero and lows below zero). I have also used the weather report for statistical calculations (e.g. find the mean, median, and mode low/high temp in the area over the last week, or month). Statistics mean a lot more to the kids when they see it applied to their everyday, real-life. Another example, we have used the newspaper listings of houses sold in the area to do statistical calculations, too. (e.g. comparing mean cost of housing in the different regions of our district). 2. I frequently bring in news articles to read to my students, about math related news items. For example, we started off this year with an article about the deaths of several people, resulting from mathematical errors on the part of a local hospital. We have also read articles about a new computer periferal that is based on a DNA model. Sometimes there are "human interest" type articles about local businesses, and these may include information about the use of mathematics in their business applications. A few years ago, the articles about "John John" Kennedy's plane crash went into detail about how math was used to trace the remnants of the plane back to the source (the crash site), by calculating the wind and ocean currents backwards from where the pieces washed up on shore. We used this to discuss inverses and the strategy of working backwards, as well as the application of formulas and patterns, etc. 3. Articles about topics that are of interest to the students can be used to create word problems that are far more meaningful, because they relate to the kids interests. If, while I am reading an article, a mathematical question jumps out at me, I will save the article and create a problem that uses that article. For example, articles often tell about how a particular business grew, giving two pieces of information (increased by 30%, from the 50,000 employed in 1995) and allow for the creation of a problem to find the 3rd piece of info (How many employees now?) 4. There are a variety of cartoons that often focus on the classroom, and occasionally focus on mathematics. For example, I have one that uses the idea of splitting an item into halves, and then choosing the "biggest half." These can be used as attention-getters at the beginning of a lesson, or to create a situation for a problem, or to illustrate a point, etc. 5. Graphing is easily done with the info provided in a variety of news situations. Our nearby city paper lists the conventions expected and already held for a year at a time. Sometimes, articles about businesses moving into the area tell about how the business made its decisions for the move, providing the numbers needed to relate that to something being studied in class. 6. I have articles, that I use every year, about the importance of mathematics re: earning a better income, comparing math abilities by gender, discussing a survey of teenagers (the kids say that learning math, being smart, is more important than being popular). 7. Speaking of surveys, that's another application that is very useful in a math classroom setting. Some articles about research that has just been released provide considerable detail that can be used as the basis for mathematical problem-solving. I am sure that you can adapt your news stories to your classroom fairly easily and regularly, if you simply become a bit more open or creative in your thinking about the news.
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