Archive for the ‘Real Life Math’ Category

Whenever we travel, I love doing touristy things. This past weekend my wife, son, and I, traveled to Detroit for a wedding. On our last day there, which was labor day, we were looking for something fun to do as a family. Since my son loves trains, we decided to visit Greenfield Village, as we heard rumors that there was a train that went around the park.

Once we got there, the first thing that we did was ride the train. Of course my son loved it. After that, we spent the next couple hours exploring the park. While I enjoyed all that the park had to offer, the one thing that really struck my interest was a sign found in the Steinmetz Cabin. I had never heard of Dr. Charles Steinmetz before this day, but after reading this short tidbit about his life I am interested in finding out more about his work as a mathematician.

Dr. Charles Steinmetz

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the best part of the day. When we got there, we were ready to shell out the $17 per ticket. To our surprise, Labor day happened to be a Target Family Fun Day and admission into the park was free. All we had to pay for were the train and bus rides, sunscreen so that we wouldn’t have a little red kid, and our all-you-can-drink soda (which we weren’t able to refill because of the super long lines that we didn’t want to stand in). Thank you Target…You Made Our Day!


If you ask a graduating senior, and most adults, what topology is, you will either get a crazy answer that it has something to do with maps or they may look at you with a blank stare in their eyes. Not many people outside the mathematical realm realize tht topology “is a major area of mathematics concerned with properties that are preserved under continuous deformations of objects, such as deformations that involve stretching, but no tearing or gluing. It emerged through the development of concepts from geometry and set theory, such as space, dimension, and transformation” (Wikipedia).

While reading The Mobius Strip by Clifford Pickover, I decided that this video would be the first of a series of videos that I would show relating to topology. In the coming weeks I will be showing videos that relate to perfect squares, knots, and possibly some other topics that I discover while reading Pickover’s book.

Rather than come up with a worksheet, I’ve decided to present the students with a series of scenarios for them to try on their own.

  • If you cut along the middle of a Möbius strip, what do you end up with? Does Mr. Ug ever reunite with his dog?
  • What happens if you cut along a Möbius strip a third of the way in from the edge?
  • Create a Möbius Strip sandwich by taking two strips of paper one on top of the other, like two pieces of bread in a sandwich. Together give the strips both a half twist and tape them as if you were constructing a sing Möbius strip. What do you get?

Usually, I like to keep my questions short, because I find a lot of students are really intrigued by Moebius strips and they continue to discover on their own.

On a side note, I think it would be fun to crochet. Maybe if I ever learn how, I can make something like this.

This week’s video clip was brought to my attention by a senior from the class of 2011. He told me to check it out because it contains real life math that affects almost everyone in the United States.

I love this clip because it takes a number that sounds incredibly large, and changes it into a number that isn’t that spectacular. The United State of America, as well as countries around the world, use units of measurement that are common to everyday life, but if a person were to tell you the actual size of these units in relation to everyday objects, many could not. How big is an acre? How large is a ton? How big is a 5.8 earthquake? How big is a gigabyte? How much is a gallon?

My goal of YouTube Tuesdays in my classroom is a warm up and not a lesson that will devour the whole hour. Therefore, even though I would love to deal with all of the different mysterious units of measure, my time frame won’t allow for it. Instead, I am taking three units: an acre, a ton, and a mile; and then with these I have planned a short lesson. Hopefully, this will take no longer than 15 minutes of class time, and the students will have a better understanding of measurement when they are done.

To conclude the lesson, I have found another clip that uses the terms “acre” and “tons”, as it compares the amount of trash in the Great Pacific Garbage dump to things we Americans can relate to. Check it out below:

And here is the accompanying worksheet:

I discovered Road Sign Math a while ago and while I have browsed the site multiple times, I have never gotten around to uploading my own sign. At least that was the case, until today. Earlier this month I drove past a road sign that included a solution too easy to pass up. Unfortunately, when I went to upload the video, I found the user interface to be very confusing and impossible to create a new signs (probably the reason why only one sign has been added in 2011).

The sign I found was on Powers Blvd in Colorado Springs and with the equation listed below, I planned on calling it Powers on Powers.

Finish Up Friday

Posted: July 22, 2011 in Classes, End of Semester, Math, Real Life Math
Tags: ,

I usually reserve Friday’s for assessments using the Standard’s Based Grading (SBG) Technique. So whatever we have covered the previous week and that week, will be covered on Friday’s assessment. Since many of my students are eager to take the test and get it out of the way, I don’t want to over emphasize the warm-up problems for this day; but at the same time, I don’t want to eliminate them from their daily routine. Therefore, Friday’s will be a wrap up of yesterday’s warm-up problems.

My goal is to take the equations that each student submitted and put them on a word document so that each student can be expose to the different equations, with some being more abstract than others, and not have to worry about taking the time out of class to copy them all down. With these sheets organized into their notebooks, the students can then “reverse engineer” the concepts that others students have used and use them to better enhance their own problems in the future. Also, by numbering each problem, students can vote for their favorite problems, so that the person with the most votes either gets a prize or their name on some sort of trophy. The voting, although I haven’t figured it out completely, may either take place online using their Edmodo account, or it may be done by turning in paper copies with their votes. Most likely, I will use Edmodo, since this will allow me to quickly accumulate the votes.

While you probably have already seen my YouTube Tuesdays, my goal is now to create YouTube clips that have accompanying math problems. While I know students like to watch video clips and not have to do anything with it, my job as their teacher is to help them retain the knowledge learned in these math videos so that they may use it in later math courses or in their lives outside of school.

Stay tuned for upcoming YouTube Tuesday math videos on this site. While some are already typed out, I plan on starting to reveal them once school starts up again. That way, my classes will be watching the same videos that I post to this site.

Monday’s warm-up will be devoted to basic arithmetic and mental math. Even though I teach lower level math classes, which typically include those students that lack the fundamentals of Algebra, there are those students in some of my upper level classes that lack the ability to do basic math in their heads. To overcome this handicap, I am going to teach them how to manually keep track of their score in bowling.

In the past, I have found that learning to keep score in bowling is a good end of quarter/semester activity, since it is fairly simple and it involves a fun simulated bowling tournament involving dice to practice their scoring abilities. Unfortunately, what I have found in the past is that after practicing with dice bowling and assessing them on their ability to score, is that many students still lack the knowledge and ability to keep score in a game of bowling.

Every Monday, they will have to score one complete game of bowling that I put on the board. Their score, which will be entered into the grade book and also used for seeding purposes for an end of quarter tournament, will be found by taking their score for the game and subtracting the actual score of the game. If their score matches the actual score they will earn 10/10 points. If their score is off by +/- 5, then they will earn 9/10. If their score is off by +/- 10, then they will earn 8/10. And so on.

Once most students are earning consecutive perfect scores, I plan on making it a bit tougher for them by telling them to create their own bowling score sheet so that it has a predetermined score. They will be mandated by a couple preset rules. First, their game cannot have more than one gutter ball in a row. This prevents students from creating a game and then when they get to the final score, writing in all gutter balls so that no score is added. Second, students must check to see if their game is correct by sharing it with a classmate and allowing them to score the game. This allows students the opportunity to see other students’ work and also it prevents me from having to give them a low grade because their score doesn’t work out. The students will need to understand all the concepts involved in scoring a game of bowling, plus they must use creativity and cognitive thinking skills. 

I realize that the first couple weeks might have lower scores then normal, but hopefully as time passes, their ability to score and also to do mental math will improve. I also feel that knowing there is a tournament at the end of the quarter will also help to improve motivation to learning and improving.