Hiding in Plain Sight - Finding Math Everywhere

Students often struggle against learning new concepts because they don't understand how what they are being taught will be useful. Sometimes all that's needed to encourage students to see the value in their school work is helping them to see how problems that can be solved with those skills are hiding in plain sight in their every day lives. As this We Are Teachers post points out, there are many reasons math is useful. Use some of these lesson ideas to encourage your students to observe and tell the stories of how school skills are all around them and you'll spark their curiosity and interest for the rest of the year.

Start with a Story

Math Stories

  • Math is Everywhere bulletin board display
  • For younger students, share a story and identify the math examples as a group. Break up into smaller groups to investigate each example and then reconvene for a show and tell of math skills.
  • Middle schoolers can be shown examples of math in stories and then identify similar examples in their own lives. Encourage them to investigate every day math we take for granted. Take suggestions from the class and split up into smaller groups to investigate each. Tie in presentation skills by encouraging students to share their discoveries creatively - try making a YouTube video or record a podcast.
  • High schoolers have so many more math skills to observe, but bringing them back to real life can be just as eye opening for teenagers as for younger students. Investigate math on a larger scale - is there a school dance or event coming up that needs decoration? Is there a school need that could benefit from some fundraising? 

Math in the Wild

Math in the Wild Lessons

Use these examples of math in the wild lesson plans or take them as inspiration for finding your own instances!

  • What's for lunch? There are many examples of grocery store math on Pinterest. This one includes some free printables so you don't have to use real food if your school rules prohibit that.
  • How many hot dog buns? Hot dogs and buns always come packaged in inconveniently different quantities. How many packages of each should you buy if you want to have equal quantities of each? Includes a movie clip from Father of the Bride. :)
  • Are refillable cups worth it? Environmental concerns aside, are disposable or refillable cups better for your bank account?
  • Consider keeping a stack of these observation reports (instant .pdf) in your classroom so students can complete and submit them throughout the year. Tie in math examples whenever they come up or as they relate to the topics at hand.

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