Nancy J. Schmitt
High School students are forever asking “When will we ever use this?” To a math teacher the critical importance of math skills appears to be as clear as one’s nose on one’s face. The students’ inexperience makes it difficult for them to envision how they might some day use some of the skills required in the math curriculum. Finding activities that are “fun”, and appropriate to the skill levels of the students, is a challenge for a math teacher anywhere.
This unit will be organized linearly where each lesson builds on itself. Graphing may be done by hand, with computer graphing software, or graphing calculators, depending on the availability of technology to the classroom teacher and the technical ability of the students.
Because I teach at a magnet school with a business focus, these lessons will emphasize business decisions. Metropolitan Business Academy is an inter-district magnet high school that provides students with insights into the world of business. The focus is on both entrepreneurship and college preparation. The student’s ability to perform data analysis and present the analysis in a format that is clear and understandable is crucial to good business foundations. It is the intent of this unit to provide the mathematical background to enable the student to produce an appropriate graphical display based on the data analysis. However, the materials and topics will be appealing to the teenager, so that any student will be able to connect with the lessons and see their application to some aspect of their current lives or future careers.
The math skills and ideas that are included in this unit are based on learning to read and create scatter plots and line graphs, fit a line to a scatter plot and make simple predictions from data within the scope of the data (interpolation and extrapolation). The skill level is geared to an Algebra I class, but may be adapted to middle school or intensified for Algebra II, where regression analysis of the data by the student may be included.
Group projects will be used in this unit. I have found that when the student has to explain his / her ideas or direct a small group of their classmates, he /she is more likely internalize the concept.
Spending time interpreting graphs, will reinforce skills necessary for the reading for content portion of the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT), administered at the end of sophomore year in Connecticut.
This is one area with which the students in my school have been struggling. In addition, one of the New Haven Public Schools Algebra I & II curricular power standards is “Collect real data and create meaningful graphical representations of the data”. This unit is designed to meet this power standard. The students will develop skills to analyze and model data mathematically. In addition, the students will concentrate on skills to present the data graphically with data mapping. These skills will enhance their ability to logically present and defend business plans.