5 Ways to Boost Math Esteem: Incorporate Non-computational Real World Connections

Can you believe that to some math is considered to be a subject needed only to graduate???

To these people, math is never to be used again after school is finished. This limited view destroys one’s math esteem. I hear this point a view from several adults that I encounter and I pray that this thinking is not passed on to students. So, I try to focus on ways to boost math esteem on a regular basis. I especially like to use non-computational approaches more than just going to the store or telling time. Incorporate “non-computational” real world connections by showing others how math is used in life on a consistent basis.

Math is used in art. Art is probably not the first thing you’d think of that contains math but art production involves the use of angles and symmetry. Whenever I walk through an art exhibit hall, all I see is an explosion of Geometry! In fact, I love collaborating with visual artists to showcase the connection between math and art in my classroom. In my Art in Math project, my students walked through the Atlanta BeltLine looking for joined shapes in street graffiti and determined the combined area and perimeter of the composite shape.

Math is used in music. In music, the rhythm danced to is a pattern of beats and the pitch is the frequency of vibration. Fractional notes help determine the tempo. In fact Pythagoras, known as the father of math, classified math based on a hierarchy of dimensions starting with arithmetic and ending with music. In my Math in music project, students learn how to create their own beats using fraction addition and time signature.

Math is used in sports. Math is used when computing the statistics sports enthusiasts so love. It is used when figuring out the probability on which team will win a series. The NBA Draft Lottery uses combinations and factorials. You can even compute the velocity at a certain angle that a player must shoot a ball so that the basket is made. With the help of the quadratic formula, a player can determine the perfect arc to angle a basketball into a hoop for a free-throw shot.

Math is used in cooking. Eating is something everyone does, especially when the meal is delicious. Part of what makes that cake so yummy or that meal taste so well is based on mathematics. Math is used in being able to convert from cups to ounces using multiplication and division, adjusting the ratios on whether you need to feed more or less people, and measuring the ingredients in the proper proportions so that the meal tastes well. This year for Halloween my students learned how to make a circular piecrust of a specific diameter to be used as the bottom and top of their dessert.

Math is used when driving. Driving, something we all look forward to, involves being able to make calculations in timing and speed. It involves being aware of the miles per gallon of gasoline. Being able to calculate how much gasoline you will need for the distance you are going so you don’t run out of gas and arrive at your destination safely. When I took my students to Lego world, the class was split into teams tasked with creating their own racing cars. Each team worked hard to determined the best mathematical design to build the fastest car. Factors included air resistance, weight, and dimension.

These are just a few examples of the ways math is used every day.

The list can go on and on, from budgeting, to decorating to gardening to building houses to do-it-yourself tasks around the home. Teaching students by applying math to real world circumstances causes math to become concrete, better understood, and there by boosts student’s math esteem. So, the next time you walk through the park or look at your cell phone GPS, think of ways that you can discuss the math you see with others around you!

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