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One of the easiest applications involved with "factoring" involves the concept of area. If these folks had used algebra tiles, they might have a better sense of what factoring is good for. Create a tiling-the-floor problem where the students have to figure out what appropriate tile size would fit. Throw in a cost factor and different sizes of tiles? There is a nice book entitled Algebra Experiments II that deals with non-linear functions and nice applications of quadratic functions. I believe the books can be purchased from Dale Seymour. There are also some CBL (Calculator based laboratory) activity books that show applications of quadratics.
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