kitchen table math, the sequel: 6th (actually 7th) grade holiday math project: Just Because I Care About You

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

6th (actually 7th) grade holiday math project: Just Because I Care About You

A Just - Because - I - Care - About - You MATH PROJECT!

You have been given $2,000 to buy gifts for ten different people in your life. You must decide who you want to give a gift to, what you want to buy them, and why you want to buy them this particular item. You must find a picture of this item with the price. Every item you select has a discount. You must find the discount for each item, calculate how much you will save, and how much the item will finally cost you.

Each student must complete a booklet consisting of 13 pages
Page one is your title page. This must include your name, and title of this project.

Pages 2 - 11 will display:
* A picture of a gift
* The original price
* The discount
* The final price with calculated sales tax ***
* Your math work
* Who the gift is for and why you chose this item for this person

Page 12 will show the price you spent for each item, how much money you spent all together, and how much you have left.
On page 13 you will donate the remaining money to a charity of your choice and explain why you chose this charity.

20% off all major appliances (refrigerator, washer)
50% off all jewelry and clothing

***Please remember, there is a 8% sales tax on everything but clothing.

...Your project will be judged on creativity, accuracy, and neatness.


[Picture of Lamp]

A lamp for my friend Nancy.
My close friend, Nancy, just got married. At the Craft Show last month, she admired a lamp which bears a resemblance to this one. She said it was the perfect lamp for her foyer. I could not pass it up.

[Various calculations]

[Final price]


Independent George said...

If you're feeling a bit cheeky, how about a Singapore Math book for the teacher?

Sara R said...

As math projects go, this one isn't that bad. It does involve actual math. The downsides are the cutting out of pictures. Do the students actually know how to take percentage discounts already? Can they do it without a calculator? How much class time is being taken up with this project?

Anonymous said...

What about saying that you truly care and that your plan is to donate the entire amount to a local charity in the name of your 10 friends.

What kind of grade would it receive?

Katharine Beals said...

And what if the charity were Parents Against Everyday Math?

Cranberry said...

6th grade? Oh crud. If one of my boys received this assignment, I'd be complaining loudly about gender discrimination. I'm female, and I would hate to do this. I can't imagine how hard it would be for a normal 12 year old boy to try to fulfill the parameters of the project.

Funny how it's a project which would be a snap for many of the moms, though, isn't it? And if they're then put on display, that could give a misleading idea of the level of accomplishment in that class, should any of the moms "help."

The "math" shouldn't take more than the equivalent of a night's homework. Figure discounts on 12 items, sum of expediture not to exceed $2,000.

As a parent, I'd rather see much more math, and much less "creativity," thank you very much. Accuracy is important. Neatness? If "legible" will satisfy, then fine. If not, then those are bonus points handed to the female students.

Is this what "math projects" and "real world problems" are like? That's ridiculous. They're a waste of time, in comparison to real math. Open up the Russian Math book, to see what 6th graders should be doing (in my dreams.)

Redkudu said...

I have to tell this story. This year I did an extended non-fiction unit with my lowest reading class which focused on summarizing. (10 kids, 8 special-ed, 6 severe behavioral needs, 1 autistic, 1 severe ADHD and FAS. 2 students misplaced due to coming in the middle of the semester and no openings in any other electives.) I chose all sorts of non-fiction about pirates, because I was gambling it would be high interest for both genders.

At the end they had a written piece to turn in which was to assess their reading and summarizing. But I let them place the piece on a pirate flag of their own design (one of the articles was about pirate flags).

I had a 9th grader who could not cut out his pictures. He chose a cartoon illustration of a bag of gold, with gold coins resting against the bag. The gold coins were outlined in black, as was the bag. The overlapping of the two images threw him for a loop - he kept cutting the gold coins out of the picture. He'd printed and cut it out three times before I realized what was happening.

Thing was, he'd already worked a very long time at composing a very nice summary and had finished before most of the other students. But even after I spent twenty minutes working with him on following the exterior lines of the picture (he was very determined), his picture came out pretty ragged. (But we did it in the end.)

I'd shudder to think of the teacher who saw his final product and graded any part of it on creativity and neatness - the jagged cutting of a picture of what essentially consisted of circles, the streaks on the construction paper from where he'd dumped glue on his picture and it squeezed out the edges and, to top it all off, he hadn't been paying much attention to where he'd placed his summary so his picture came out almost upside down. But he had worked SO HARD. Really, so much harder than most because of his difficulties, and because he'd finished the written portion so soon and so well. It took him almost twice as long to create the picture while others were still finishing their summaries and then, in the span of 10 minutes or so, cutting out a little illustration and neatly gluing it on the page.

I think of kids who don't have magazines and glue, scissors or rulers at home, much less glitter, fabric swatches, and buttons/ribbons/sequins, being graded on that "flash" ("flair"?) that teachers seem to think indicates the student's engagement in, and serious contemplation of, the topic.

But what are they really focusing on? What the project means, or whether they are cutting or drawing something which will fulfill that abstract concept of "creativity" and "neatness" the teacher has dictated?

As far as I'm concerned, this project is 3-in-1. A math project: the calculations. An art project: illustration and layout. An English project: descriptive writing focusing on adjectives ("My [close] friend Nancy admired a lamp which had a [green] shade and [silver] base like this one.")

I know it's different in some schools. I know there are places where a student can be expected to have the resources for this type of "creativity." But I've never taught at one of those schools. However, at every school I've taught at, teachers in disciplines like math, English, social studies, science, continue to grade on creativity.

Arrangement of a cell - be creative!

Map of Britain - be creative!

Etc., etc.

The one thing I do like about the assignment is the inclusion of the word "accuracy." But I think that's the only thing it should be assessed on. It's math class. Grade the math.

Anonymous said...

This is so wrong on so many levels and is a major reason we homeschool.

Sara R said...

I missed the bit about describing the gift and why you purchased it for the recipient. I agree that unnecessarily complicates what should be a simple math assignment. I also agree that the cut and paste stuff is a time waster.

But the math in this assignment is challenging and at the correct level, isn't it? My son is doing Singapore 5A at home, and he hasn't learned this yet. I can see that maybe the class hasn't learned the skills of deducting percentages to mastery yet, and so maybe they shouldn't be applying them to a complicated project like this yet. Otherwise I don't see the problem with the math part of the assignment.

Exo said...

Projects, projects...
There is another problem with it: students get so used to doing projects, they are getting upset when we are NOT doing any.
I teach Geophysical Sciene and Bio this year. Most of other techers did some "creative" projects - model of a cell, or model of an atom or a poster of some sort, grading on neatness, creativity, etc. Basically, most say they assign the projects to teach following the directions and raise the grades of students up before the end of marking period- alternaive assessment they call it.

I don'd assign projects. And when my students ask me, I explain it from two positions: as a parent, I don't like that I have to buy all these crafty things and give my kitchen up, and spend the weekend doing unnecessary "creative" diarama or whatever else; as a former student, and a teacher, I do't like to waste several hours if what is supposed to be learned from a project can be learned in 20 minutes from a book and an exercise.

Today, one of my students asked me again, "Miss, are we going to do a project?". He was hissed upon by others, "Don't say the P-word to her!"


Katharine Beals said...

woops--this is actually a *7th* grade math project! I don't know why I keep thinking my son is still in 6th grade... perhaps it has something to do with math projects like these.

le radical galoisien said...

Awww they missed the chance to do an NP-complete problem.

ChrisA said...

Gag me, gag me, gag me. There is plenty of time to learn how to write reports. Math should be a place of right and wrong. A place of escape for nerds who find english difficult but math easy. But no, english haunts them even in Math class.

I have to go find extra blood pressure pills when I read assignments like this.

Independent George said...

The funniest part is that these projects are supposed to be good because they represent "real-world" applications. No project manager would ever sign off on this project. The first question a professional project manager asks is, "How long does it take?" (or, "How much does it cost", which is really the same question).

Doing a decent job on a project like this should take somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-18 hours (60-90 minutes/page). Grading would take at least 30 minutes per project.

By comparison, a student could complete a 10-question problem set on percentage multipliers in about 1 hour, and do the same amount of math. More, actually; a properly written problem set designs each question to test specific skill sets while gradually increasing the difficulty, as well as reinforcing prior lessons. Grading would take an average of 10 minutes.

Now multiply these by 20 students.

310 total hours (10 teacher hours) for the project.

23 hrs 20 minutes (3:20 teacher hours) for the problem set.


Lisa said...

Argh!! Which is why my math brainiac ds despises math class while loving math.

Anonymous said...

The middle school model (mindset?) likes projects more than the junior high model, I think. I saw a big change in the same school in the three years between one kid's departure from eighth grade in the junior high and the next one's arrival in sixth in the middle school. Team format, more of the artsy-crafty projects all of us HATED in ES, and (worst of all) NEST. Nurture etc. (I've suppressed the details) for 20" a day, doing touchy-feely stuff and bonding etc. My son was doomed - he had the art/theater teacher. My daughter lucked out - she got the soccer coach. He just told the kids to do something quietly and not get him into trouble. It's all awful, but especially awful in math, where they had hoped to escape projects. If we never see a diorama again, it will be too soon.

SteveH said...

This is well within the abilities of even the average 6th grader.

Discount (multiply)
Tax (multiply)
Repeat 10 times.

Add up prices.
Subtract from $2000.

This is not 10 problems. It's one problem repeated 10 times.

As IG demonstrates, what percent of the project is math? What percent of every type of percentage problem does this cover? What about markup versus discount? Given the price paid, the tax, and the discount, what is the normal retail price? Given the price paid, the discount and the original price, what is the tax? What is the formula used? Rearrange the equation to solve for each variable. If you plot one variable versus another, what is the shape of the curve?

Kids, if your parent's IRAs dropped in value by 50% in 2008 and increased in value by 50% in 2009, do they have the same amount as when they started? Do you really think it's appropriate for a 7th grader to spend $2000 on Christmas presents? Answer this in a 5 paragraph essay form.

Or, explain how the state can take raw percent correct math scores that average 50% and convert them into a proficiency (cutoff) index that is in the 90% range. Explain how schools can then call this "quality education".

How about a project where the student owns their own store that sells 20 products. List the wholesale price for each and the standard markup. Tell them how quickly the products will sell if there is a discount of 10%, 20%, or 30%. Give them a fixed overhead cost per month. Which discounts give them the highest profit? You could even make the overhead a function of the number of units sold.

What they are doing is not just different, it's bad. It's low expectations.

Catherine Johnson said...

This takes me back.

Years ago - 4th grade, to be exact - C. had to do a Christmas shopping project. Probably a holiday shopping project, come to think of it.

Ed helped a bit & had him round off the amounts to the nearest dollar.

I said, "You rounded off the amounts to the nearest dollar."

Ed said, "That won't matter."

It mattered.

C. lost all kinds of points for not counting the pennies in his quest to spend EXACTLY $100.

Lost points for artistic quality, too.

Catherine Johnson said...

age 12???


C. was 9 years old and enjoyed it. He was so proud of all his choices.

Very sweet.

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