Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's Never Been Easier to Make Math Relevant for Students

How often do you hear “I’m bored!”?  For many math teachers it’s way too often!  Fortunately for teachers and students, math doesn’t have to be boring anymore!

One of the best ways to boost engagement and motivation is to make content interesting and relevant to students.  Multimedia makes it extremely easy to accomplish these goals!   We now have unlimited access to images and videos that can enhance math instruction and give some relevance to the math concepts we teach.  We also have the ability to easily create our own images and videos for learning.  Best of all it doesn’t have to take much time and effort on the part of the teacher to make this happen!

Recently infographics have become very popular.  This is great news for math teachers because infographics are just one more form of multimedia that we can use to make math interesting and relevant.   Infographics are filled with statistics that can be used to start mathematical discussions.  Infographics can also be used to replace worksheets.   Rather than giving students a worksheet with proportions to solve, give them and infographic and have them solve proportions based on the true statistics.  In addition to presenting “real” statistics and information, infographics are often based on topics that many students would find interesting.

Some infographics that I’ve recently come across:

·      The First 48 Hours of Mozilla (Firefox browser)                                           

·      Statistics About Japan (Statistics from the Japan Disaster)                             

 ·     The History of Apple’s iPod                                                                          
·      The Business of Facebook                                                                               

This infographic was created by Fast Company.  Their blog post about the infographic points out some of the highlights of the data represented in the infographic.  

o   Facebook has 610,736,920 MEMBER PROFILES. That's once for every ELEVEN people on the planet.
o   Analysts estimate that Facebook pulled in $1.86 BILLION in advertising in 2010. That’s expected to grow 118% this year, to $4 billion.
o   EVERY 60 SECONDS ON FACEBOOK, USERS send 230,000 messages, update 95,000 statuses, write 80,000 wall posts, tag 65,000 photos, share 50,000 links—and affirm or disparage them all with half a million comments.

With this data students can solve proportions, make graphs, calculate percentages, and make predictions.  You could also take surveys of the class and compare the class data with the data from the infographic.  

When using infographics with students, it’s important to discuss the fact that the data may change.  In the case of the Japan Disaster Infographic some of the data may change, but some will not.  In the case of the Mozilla and Facebook infographics the data may have changed before you even have a chance to use it with your students.  These discussions may provide additional problems to solve.  Just ask some “What if” questions and have students make predictions about how the data is likely to change.  You can even follow-up a week or two later by having students look up some of the same statistics to see if their predictions about the rate of change were close.

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