Engaging students: Fractions, decimals, and percents

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission again comes from my former student Perla Perez. Her topic, from Algebra: fractions, decimals, and percents.

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A2. How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

This past summer when I worked as a program assistant for TexPrep, we had the opportunity to have a pizza party. How fun! Well it took longer than we thought to pick out a place and figure out how much we all had to pay. I got to thinking about how this could be a great engaging activity for students to get excited about decimals, fractions, and percents.

The activity will go as follows:

Students are split up into groups of four with each group given a pizza place. Every person has one of the following roles: the researcher, the recorder, the calculator, and the presenter (to compare with other groups). Their goal is to find the pizza place that is the cheapest, gives the most pizza, and figure out how much each individual would have to pay. By comparing each other’s work during presentations, students get to compare, contrast, and see the different methods used to solve the problems. This also gives the teacher an opportunity to understand their comprehension level of the subject and see if converting a percentage is difficult for them or not. When all the groups are finished gathering their information they will present. Afterwards (if allowed), we will reward ourselves with eating pizza! Through this activity students will have to come up their own way to solve these problems. It leads them to work with: Decimals, since they must include every penny (including tax); Fractions, when it comes to figuring out how much each individual owes; and Precents, when asked to compare prices between pizza places.

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C3. How has this topic appeared in the news?

Decimals, fractions, and percent are used in media to represent a variety of concepts from the percent of the candidate poll elections to percent chance of rain. Now some of these topics might not sound interesting to most students, but current events such as the movement to raise minimum wage to $15.00 can grab their attention. Students can then be given questions such as: How does that affect the regular worker financially? Are employees working the same hours? Do employees get fewer hours and more pay, or do they keep their regular hours? In the Time article “Here’s Every City in America Getting a $15 Minimum Wage”, it mentions how some restaurants are increasing their prices from 4% to 21% which begs to question, is everything in the market going to increase as well? All the answers to these questions can be found in the news and prompt their interest in actually doing the math to find out the answers. The news also gives them the real world application student’s consistently are trying to find. Engaging students about the news and simply prompting them before the lesson allows students to continue thinking about it as they go forth in the lesson.

Helpful links:

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E1. How can technology (YouTube, Khan Academy [khanacademy.org], Vi Hart, Geometers Sketchpad, graphing calculators, etc.) be used to effectively engage students with this topic?

As we continue to advance in technology, we begin to see how there are many ways a student can learn. The internet is full of different educational games, activities, calculators, and above all videos that are useful to educators. There are videos basically for everything. So what better way to engage students than with a video that knows exactly how they feel like in this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGqQOQavbls. The video is a great representation of how a unique activity such as magic can be used to stimulate students in understanding the idea of how fractions, decimals, and percentages relate to one another. Aside from funny videos students also like to interact in games like: http://www.math-play.com/Fractions-Decimals-Percents-Jeopardy/fractions-decimals-percents-jeopardy.html and http://www.topmarks.co.uk/maths-games/7-11-years/fractions-and-decimals. The first game allows students to practice converting fractions, decimals, and fractions from one to another and shows them how they are related. The last website gives teachers a variety of tools to choose from, all of which can help a lot in the classroom.




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