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5 Tips for Connecting Mathematics with Real Life

Posted by Zacc Dukowitz

Jul 8, 2014 6:30:00 AM


Connecting math with real life

A perennial part of the mathematics education discussion has been about connecting math to real life—whether this should be done, how to do it, and what it actually means to do so. We don’t aim to answer these questions definitively in this post (who could!), but we do want to provide some suggestions  for how mathematics can come alive in the classroom. 


Here are 5 easily executable tips for  connecting mathematics with their everyday lives:

1) Appeal to different types of learners.

Connecting math with real lifeMake sure your lesson plans appeal to all types of learning needs and preferences.

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about visuals versus written stimulus. Some students, such as those who don’t feel comfortable speaking up in a large group, learn better in small groups. Consider grouping students with the same types of knowledge gaps, so they can tackle them together. Alternately, group students with different types of knowledge gaps, so they can tutor one another in the areas where they feel confident. 

The key here is to try different things. Not every approach will appeal to every student, but with regular attempts at innovation you’ll see some students start to get engaged who never had before, and, eventually, every student begin to grow excited about learning.

2) Consider realistic scenarios.

Easy, right? Not necessarily. The difference between math scenarios that can ignite a real love of learning and those that draw a blank look is in determing how real your realistic scenario is.

For instance, most students (and most people, for that matter) don’t usually calculate the arrival times of two different trains leaving at two different times. However, almost everyone, adults and youth alike, uses math every day to deal with money. 

So give your students classroom  money and have them set up their own  businesses to run. It’s amazing how acutely a student’s attention is turned to math when the prospect of making—or losing—money is involved.

3Math is power.

On a large scale, encourage your students to consider all of the ways that mathematics makes the world they live in possible.  There’s a misconception among students limit math to a textbook and the problems and exercises contained within, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

For example, without math, we wouldn’t have the internet.  Think about the math is required for the internet to work? Discuss the details of the workings of the internet, such as codes and algorithms necessary for computers to communicate with each other. 

Have students think about ways that “math is power” in the world around them. Whether considering the math of sports – rbi’s, field goal percentages, race times or  national budgets and how they were affected by the stock market crash in 2008, or the way an interest rate can determine whether you can buy a car and how much that car will actually cost—a burning question for students in high school!—considering math from these perspectives can be an effective way for students to connect the world they know with the subject being taught.


4) Engage students in dialogue and writing about math.  

Math is more than just solving a problem, it’s about students being able to convey their thinking and reasoning in both oral and written forms. 

As noted in the CCSSM Standards for Mathematical Practice, students need experience in justifying their conclusions, communicating them to others, and responding to the arguments of others.Students at all grades can listen or read the arguments of others, decide whether they make sense, and ask useful questions to clarify or improve the arguments.

5) Put the power into your students’ hands.

Have your students create their own math scenarios and problems where math is used in their own lives.

Be it cooking, shopping online, or some other situation they regularly face, if students are challenged to think about and use their own applications for math in the world then it makes it more relevant and chances are their engagement level will increase.


What are some other ways that you connect the world and math in your classroom?

Share your ideas  with us in the coments section!

Topics: Resources, Teaching & Learning

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