As a new teacher, I thought “real-world examples” were the key to interesting math. Now I realize that, often, the most ridiculous examples are the most interesting.
For example, how many times do kids have to calculate the area around a pool or how much carpet/paint they need. Yeah, these are indeed “real world” – but they’re boring! Who cares!? Dan Meyer wrote about this issue here.
So, to practice with calculating area, we got a bit ridiculous: How many students could we possibly cram onto our playground?
Now, it’s tempting to hand out a worksheet here, but it’s way more powerful to simply ask your students:
What would we need to know?
Let them think a bit. You don’t need much information to get to a reasonable estimate. And all of the information is pretty easily accessible.
- You need to calculate the area an average student takes up. This could be a circle or square or rectangle.
- You need to know the area of your school’s playground. Kids can find this using Google Earth.
- Then you divide!
And you can extend this to any space. How many kids could fit in the multipurpose room? Disneyland? A football field? Get ridiculous!
I actually wrote this whole thing out as a series of videos over at Byrdseed.TV.