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Why Media4Math Classroom? *December 2, 2018*

*Posted by Media4Math in Uncategorized.*

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Have you noticed how the “real world” applications in math textbooks are never all that compelling, interesting, or for that matter realistic? In fact, many “real world applications” in math textbooks are contrived.

There’s a reason for this.

Textbooks are very formulaic in their delivery. Editors have a limited number of pages to convey key math concepts, so anything out of the ordinary, like a rich real-world example of a math problem, has the potential to take up a lot of book real estate.

But as math educators we know that rich math problems can’t be shoehorned into a half-page textbook feature. In fact, real-world math problems have these characteristics:

- They cover multiple math topics clustered around the central real-world applications.
- They don’t have a single solution, but offer a rich variety of solutions.
- They require thoughtful approaches and creative problem solving.
- They are challenging and can even be fun.
- They are not the stuff of textbooks.

To convey the richness of math, you often have to take it upon yourself to create these rich math experiences. This is where Media4Math Classroom can help you.

## “Real” Real World Math Problems

Media4Math Classroom is a growing collection of instructional modules that don’t shy away from real world applications of math. We do what textbooks stay away from.

Here’s an example from one of our modules, “What Is Function Notation?”

We use the scenario of a cheetah chasing a gazelle to explore and apply functions. The underlying problem that we explore is based on the following premise:

- Cheetahs can quickly accelerate to catch gazelles, but they can only maintain this speed for a short while.
- Gazelles, while not as fast as cheetahs, have adapted to dart away from the cheetah long enough to tire out the cheetah.
- How can we model this behavior mathematically to see when a cheetah successfully catches the gazelle, and when the gazelle gets away?

The goal of this module isn’t to apply math to some contrived problem. Instead, the goal is to fully investigate a phenomenon and bring to bear the relevant math to better understand it. So, this module explores this scenario and in the process the following math concepts are used:

- Exploring a speed vs. time graph so that students can see the powerful acceleration of the cheetah. This Desmos-based graphing calculator activity has students do curve-fitting, explore quadratics, but mostly to see the raw power of the cheetah mathematically.

- Explore the domain and range of the piecewise function that defines the cheetah’s motion.

- Analyze the distance-vs-time graphs for the cheetah-vs-gazelle to see that the cheetah has more than enough time to catch the gazelle. This is also a Desmos graphing calculator activity.

- From this, students can see that everything is stacked against the poor gazelle, and yet it finds ways of escaping the cheetah. This is explored mathematically through this displacements-vs-time graph, which maps the distance between the cheetah and gazelle.

Throughout this module students pursue the story of the cheetah and gazelle not to solve a specific (textbook) math problem but to understand a natural phenomenon mathematically. This is the approach we take in Media4Math Classroom.

Tell us what you think. Write to us at admin@media4math.com.

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