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Q&A #6888

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Newspapers

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From: Chris <cmpalmer2@aol.com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2001101903:09:42
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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