As a math teacher I enjoy finding ways to make the topic I am teaching relevant to the lives of my students. Most topics in 6th and 7th grade can somehow be tied to jobs, food, money, shopping, etc. I love saying “You’ll use this when….” and then give them an example. When they start coming up with their own ways of using a topic – BINGO!
Today my 7th graders were learning about the counting principle. We were discussing outfits, marbles, etc. All of a sudden it hit me – Applebee’s and Chilis! (No, it’s not because I’m 5 months pregnant and starving all day…. ok maybe it is) What on earth do they have to do with probability? The counting principle applies wonderfully to the “Two for Twenty” deal that both restaurants have. I’m fortunate enough to teach in a classroom that has my desktop connected to my projector so I quickly pulled up the menus for these two places online. We looked at the selections (drooled a bit) and determined how many times you could actually eat at these places, using this deal, before you would run out of new options. One place was 40 times and the other was 55! My kids really enjoyed the connection!
Then came my 8th grade Honors Algebra class after that… Today was the beginning of Multiplying Polynomials. Of course, someone had to ask me “When are we EVER going to use this?” And I cringed. I hate when my students feel like they are learning something that doesn’t have meaning. I hate teaching something that doesn’t have meaning for me either. So, what could I have said?
- When you take the state test in May
- In Math class next year
- In some jobs… although I can’t name one.
- Ummm…… Uhhhhhh…….
I chose the first four. I don’t want to lie. I’ve been teaching for 8 years, am raising a family and have seriously never had to multiply a polynomial in real life. I explained to them that although it wasn’t going to be “used” in real life it was still important to develop them as Honors mathematics students. Every new formula, new rule and new concept they learn shapes them and better prepares them for any math class in the future and any job they may want. I wish I could have pulled out some great real life example but sometimes you just can’t. And I guess, even though it isn’t fun, that’s OK (sometimes) too.