Author Topic: HELP - Applied mathematics & DIY-type project ideas for classroom needed!  (Read 3118 times)

MrMathMustache

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So my principal just asked me today to teach an extra class that's essentially a "math+" elective.  I'm incredibly excited to do this, but sometimes the freedom to do whatever you want can make it hard to know where to start!  There will be around 25 students, primarily sixth graders, chosen by me from my gifted/advanced math classes. 
I already plan on enrolling us in the state stock market game competition, and doing a couple of construction projects - model rockets and balsa bridges.  I did all 3 of these as a kid and have done them occasionally over the years, so apart from ordering new materials, I'm set with those.

I was hoping the MMM community might be able to suggest some project ideas so I can start googling specifics.  I'm not the most handy guy in the world personally, but I'm up for anything cool math- or science-related.  I have a brand new class set of PC laptops and plenty of classroom space, but I just don't have a lot of time to plan like I normally would, which is why I'm scrambling a bit and asking for help.  Any ideas are welcome!

Peach Fuzz

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Since finding MMM I've thought a lot about how the education system has seemed to fail on teaching kids about finances. I've thought it would be cool to do some kind of math/finance project.

Beginning idea: You could have a big semester-long project. Have the kids make a monthly budget, with bills "due" at certain times of the month. (They have to "pay" you by xx date.) Everyone could have the same "salary". Then tempt them with random goodies they can "buy" like candy or extra day for homework due date, etc. But if they don't budget properly they could go into the red and not have enough money to pay their bills, which would be a points deduction off the final grade. I think that would be really fun, plus AP/advanced kids would be able to pick it up (hopefully). Something like that. Oh the possibilities...

Rebecca Stapler

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To piggyback on the budgeting idea, you could add a credit card in there, and students could learn all about APRs and paying something off long after the benefit has been used up.

Maybe you could pair it somehow with the stock market program? 

MrMathMustache

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Thank you both for the budget project idea; I've searched around a bit and found a few different resources to plan a "future family"-type project and will use the weekend to sort through them to see what might work best.  In my experience, most sixth graders haven't used excel, or spreadsheet software generally, so I can definitely show them a few tricks.

For anyone else who might view the topic, please keep any ideas coming!

Gimesalot

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There was a really cool math board game I used to play in a similar class.  There were dice with numbers and operations and you had to combine them and meet some rules.  I forget the name, but it kept me entertained for hours, although I was maybe 8, so it might be too young.

Honestly, if you are really going to be teaching children in the advanced math or gifted classes, I don't think budgeting is a good topic.  The math is too simple to hold their attention for too long.  I could be wrong, but at that age, I was dissecting sharks, building civilizations, studying medicine from the middle ages, cracking codes, etc.  I would have done the bare minimum on a similar assignment so that I could read a book or do something more interesting.

One really fun thing I can suggest is teaching your students statistics and probability in terms of gambling.  It will make them feel less like "smart kids" and more badass. 

Mrs. PoP

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Hmmm, I was in a class like that around that age.  Tons of fun! =)
Check out Math Counts competition resources - we had a team and some of us were on it. 
We also learned Q-BASIC programming in the same math enrichment class.
I remember learning about teselations and how the areas could be calculated as slices (which was a great lead in to integration in high school)
Testing famous problems:
- like learning how the birthday problem works in terms of probability, and then testing it to see how many birthday duplicates there are in various classrooms. 
- or testing out the bridges of Koenigsberg problem and then talking about basic graph theory and why the solution is the way it is. 
- Monty Hall Dilemma - more probability, but this one is conditional probability with a change of information. 

Another cool book you might want to check out is "proofs from the book", a collection of many of the most elegant proofs in the world (and titled based on one of Erdos' favorite sayings).  Some are accessible to kids that age depending how they are presented (like why a^2 + b^2 = c^2 for right triangles). 

I don't remember playing around with much finance math in that class, but I'm sure you could do some compounding growth (I did this with some Algebra II kids I taught and some of it seemed to stick). 

If we had extra time at the end of class, we were usually encouraged to practice programming (we were really good at creating annoying "BEEP" loops) or play the game Mancala. 

MDM

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Check out Math Counts competition resources - we had a team and some of us were on it. 
+1

See http://mathcounts.org/

Nudelkopf

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http://jdh.hamkins.org/math-for-seven-year-olds-graph-coloring-chromatic-numbers-eulerian-paths/
I used this with my Year 8s (so, 12/13 years old), and added some extra stuff to make it a bit harder, and for them to think a bit more.

I second the Konigsberg bridge idea!

There's some more graph theory ideas here: http://info.marygrove.edu/MATblog/bid/74832/Explore-Graph-Theory-with-Gifted-Elementary-Students

Are your students old enough to have facebook or mobile phones? They could compile a graph/network for the class based on that data (nodes = students, edges = if they're friends/have each other's numbers). You'd have to check there are no lone vertices, though, that'd be awkward.