Creating Opportunities for Project-Based Learning in Math
The transition from standardised testing to project-based learning can be challenging in an age where standardised testing appears to be the most reliable predictor of student achievement in secondary schools. However, the transition to project-based learning does not have to be a frightening experience for secondary math teachers. You may design projects that are real, relevant, and rigorous by utilising your own skills and curricular resources, and by answering the age-old question, “When am I ever going to use this?”
SELECTION OF A PROJECT SURFACE
Students are challenged to respond to or solve real-world problems in a genuine and relevant manner through project-based learning. The genuineness of the project is essential in ensuring that students feel invested in it. A poll of students is one of the most effective methods of determining what they will find relevant. You can incorporate particular questions about students’ interests and passions, as well as their objectives and aspirations, into the standard beginning-of-the-year student inventory by repurposing it. Along with keeping an eye on current events, you’ll be able to select relevant themes that may be used as the foundation for a project-based learning experience in a matter of weeks.
For example, access to the internet has long been a problem in some areas, and remote learning has brought these concerns to the attention of and aggravated them for many of our students. Another concern that has come up recently is the proliferation of infectious diseases.
SELECTING THE MATH CONTENT THAT IS APPROPRIATE
Decide on the most appropriate math content to use in conjunction with the themes you’ve chosen. Not every content standard is acceptable for every project, and when selecting a standard for a project it is crucial to evaluate the domain of rigour for the standard (applicable, conceptual, or procedural), as well as the role of the standard within the curriculum. Standardization should be prioritised according to their ability to combine applicable rigour with Common Core modelling standards, and/or Widely Applicable Prerequisites (WAP) standards. This will ensure that you’re utilising standards that are rich in opportunities for deep learning throughout the project process.
Students in geometry classes can use circles and coordinate geometry overlaid on maps of their city or town to examine cell coverage in rural and urban areas in order to address the digital divide and connectivity concerns within their community in order to address the internet access issue.
When it comes to the spread of disease, functions make an excellent foundation upon which to develop a project-based learning unit. Exponential functions are used to model relationships between variables and are particularly useful in the design of projects involving communicable diseases such as the common cold, the flu, or Covid-19, and how to slow or stop the spread of these diseases through data analysis and modelling with exponential functions. Use actual data from the real world to construct projects that involve data analysis and modelling of spread. Alternatively, you can use glow powder to mimic the spread of germs in a classroom or school building and then gather data from the simulation.
Project-based learning provides you with the possibility to describe mathematical issues in an algebraic manner (through creating equations, writing functions, graphing, and analysing graph features). Students can better understand the complexity of credit and loans when developing plans for their financial futures by bringing algebraic exponentials and rationals to life through the study and use of financial formulas, which can be found in financial textbooks.
THE PROJECT IS UNDERWAY IN ITS PLANNING
Your textbook or curriculum can serve as an excellent anchor while developing your project, giving students with familiar resources and procedures for obtaining mathematical content knowledge and skill practise.
It is beneficial to split the project down into manageable parts, or milestones, each of which has its own driving question to answer. Employing the information from these driving questions, choose the most appropriate content from your curriculum to incorporate within that milestone. Using this information, you may select the lessons and practise assignments from your curriculum that will best assist the students’ learning. However, keep in mind that this may cause the order in which you teach some of the lessons to be altered.
INCLUDING TESTING PREPARATION
There are apparent linkages between project-based learning and preparation for standardised examinations such as the SAT, in addition to the intrinsic features of critical thinking that develop within each project-based learning experience.
Using project launches, incorporate skills from the “Problem Solving and Data Analysis” part of the SAT Study Guide straight into a project, where data is provided and analysed in order to encourage critical thinking, reasoning, and sense-making as students build their “need-to-know” questions. Students can gain further experience with these reasoning skills by concentrating on data that is relevant to the project through daily or weekly data discussions.
Additional subjects from the “Heart of Algebra” and “Passport to Advanced Math” portions of that study guide might be used to supplement your preparation for the exam. Project-based learning gives a lens through which to examine algebra in its contextual setting, allowing you to assist students in describing problems algebraically (through creating equations, writing functions, graphing and analysing graph features). If your project has a strong concentration on geometry or trigonometry, you can draw direct connections to the “Additional Topics in Math” section by using geometric modelling and analysis, as well as problem-solving with trigonometry or complex numbers, as appropriate, in your project.
Within our secondary mathematics classes, we have the capacity to use our expertise and resources to deliver authentic and engaging project-based learning experiences. For example, studying the geometry of packed items and recycling statistics to assess the environmental impact and propose more sustainable alternatives, or using systems of equations to examine time and money restrictions to better select student lunch options, are all feasible projects. Ultimately, it will be the students, not the teachers, who will have the answer to the age-old question “When am I ever going to need this?” as a result of these rich project-based learning experiences.