This year I have continued my quest to find challenging mathematical problems that related to real life. This has been a real challenge. Most of what I've discovered has been too difficult or too easy for my fifth graders.I know that learners need to discover the relevance of what they are learning to their lives; it gives those standards a personal meaning to them. They realize that these aren't just a bunch of random procedures/processes/problems they are being forced to learn. They are relevant and useful. It totally changes their perception of learning.
This year, I was fortunate to stumble across a site called Yummy Math. I must admit that the title is what caught my eye from the beginning. At first glance the two words may seem at odds...unless you're talking about using some food items as manipulatives. Their tagline is "We provide teachers and students with mathematics relevant to our world today …" As I investigated further, I realized these were a collection of "math stories" that set up a real-world scenario; then they pose questions for the students to ponder and problem-solve. They are timely with current events. Currently, there are math stories on March Madness, Pi Day, Green green Chicago River, and Shamrock Shakes. You can search by month or by math standard. Each math story involves multiple math standards and new stories are regularly added.
To be honest, these standards are a bit over my students' heads, but I loved the whole concept of real world scenarios that focus on multiple math skills while adding some interesting trivia or information; I decided to try it with my young mathematicians anyway. My students were immediately engrossed in these problems. We begin each of the stories by discussing the beginning "set-up" together. Then they set to work in small groups as I travel from group to group to listen to their conversations and ask questions to discover their thought process. We periodically have a whole group conversations to share their discoveries. They get so excited about "figuring" something out, they don't stop to question whether or not this is a 5th grade standard. I never hear my students say, "This is too hard." They see how the different math standards overlap and relate to one another.
They are not just solving problems with numbers either, they are having to write explanations for how they got to their conclusion. We all know that it is one thing for a students to just go through a process...that doesn't denote a true understanding of a concept. It is a totally different thing if a student can explain not just what they've done to find a solution,but also why they've done it.
It's highly engaging and interesting for them to see how math supports life. It's relevant. Whenever we do a Yummy Math story, our math class goes on for over an hour and a half. When it's time to move to another subject, a chorus of "Awwwww, can't we have 5 more minutes?" ensues. One student told me that he loves yummy math because it's math for life. He is so right. Kids begging to keep solving problems? Absolutely!
~To the Yummy Math teachers, I hope I did justice describing your site. Please feel free to make comments adding any important information that I might have omitted. Thanks for such a great site!