Welcome to the Math Modeling Matters Blog
Math Modeling Matters
Matter #1: GETTING STARTED WITH "WHERE'S THE MATH?"
This post is for teachers who have never done any mathematical modeling with their students. First, I'm so happy that you found this post! And I must admit, a bit curious about what brought you here. (So do let me know!)
If you are thinking about diving into math modeling with your students, I'm guessing one or more of these might be reasons why:
1. You want to motivate your students through meaningful, context-rich problems.
2. You want to give your students the statistics, math, computation and communication skills necessary to navigate data in work and life.
3. You want to engage your students in multiple subject areas - maybe combining subjects like literature and math, art and math, or science and math.
So what's step #1? A good place to start is to play "Where's the math?" Select some pictures of locations that will be familiar to your students. Ask them to identify mathematical opportunities in the picture. It could be a picture of a local business, park, area in the school or local sports team. The goal is to have the students broaden their idea about what "counts" as mathematics. It also builds the idea of communicating about mathematics, and the idea that modeling problems will have more than one "right" answer.
Rather than having students shout out the answers, it might be useful to give them some time to think. Ask them to generate their own list before sharing in small groups or with the whole class. This sets up the practice of individual responsibility and time to think as well as sharing the benefits of having more minds applied to a problem.
This doesn't have to be a long exercise - it might be nice as a fun break between other topics. This sets up the idea of math as fun and creative endeavor. It can be played by Kindergarteners to Undergraduates, whose answers will become more sophisticated as their mathematical modeling toolkit grows.
Establishing the practices of open-minded, creative thinking, clear communication, and cooperative learning can set the stage for more formal mathematical modeling. Stay tuned for more on that!