Making Mathematics Relevant to Students

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  • 0:03 Real World Math
  • 0:57 Relate to Present Time
  • 2:49 Make Math a Game
  • 3:44 Connect to Their Futures
  • 5:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Getting your students to care about math is not an easy task. In this lesson, you will discover a variety of ways to make math relevant to your students.

Real World Math

Students across the globe dread math class. Google the phrase 'subject students struggle with most' and the top results are about math.

So why is this true? Why is math so dreadful to so many students? The reasons are many and varied, but that is not the purpose of this lesson. The struggle with math is real, so as a teacher your next question should be, 'What can I do to overcome this obstacle?'

Start by making math relevant to your students. With any subject area, if you make the material relatable, then your students will care more about it. Naturally, this leads to trying harder and eventually having success with the concept. It is true for all of us. If we care about something, we will put in the effort to remember it.

Your next obvious question should be, how do I make math concepts relatable to my students? Let's take a look at some things you can do.

Relate to Present Time

What do your students care about right now? Make math relatable to your students by showing them how to use it in their personal, everyday lives. To begin, look at the interests of your students.

One obvious interest may be sports. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, and many other sports all use numbers in some way. For example, you can link American football scores to basic math operations. Since there are a variety of scoring plays (including a touchdown, field goal, safety, and two-point conversion), have your students figure out what sort of plays a team will need to do in order to win. If a team is down by 10, how can they gain the lead? Sure, two touchdowns will do it, but so will one touchdown, two two-point conversions, and a field goal.

Another sports example lies with baseball. This sport relies heavily on numbers, especially statistics. Everything in baseball can be quantified by a stat. This fits in perfectly with a unit on percentages, averages, or probability.

Not all your students will care about sports, so make sure you don't limit the relatability. You can connect the same math concepts to other personal interests. Most students will be interested in money. Math easily lends itself to any interaction with money.

For instance, any shopping excursion can be directly affected by math. Stores are constantly having sales, and your students see this every day. You can use this to your advantage. Imagine there is one store selling a really cool jacket. A second store is selling the same jacket for a higher price, but it's discounted 15%. Which is the better deal? It is human nature to always find the best deal for our money, and your students will easily see how this relates to their real world lives. In general, it is helpful to discover your students' interests and find ways to bring math into what they care about.

Make Math a Game

Students are often very competitive, so if you design a game dependent on math, many will force themselves to learn the math needed to win. One idea for a game is to use monopoly money. Each student can get a specific amount, and then they have to achieve certain goals. Examples include paying the mortgage or rent, buying groceries, paying utilities, and taking care of other life expenses. They can even make real world decisions like choosing between buying a car or relying on the bus. Should they buy brand name products or generic ones? Should they go to the movies or rent a movie to watch at home? The winner would be determined by whoever budgets the best, getting the most for his or her money spent.

Besides using monopoly money, there are many other ways you can turn math into a game. Using the idea of competition will likely get your students invested in learning math concepts.

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