One way to increase a student's understanding of how mathematics is applied in the real world is to have them find out for themselves. In order to do this the teacher should first discuss the assignment with the principal and obtain permission to conduct interviews in the community. The assignment will usually be approved because it provides an opportunity for good public relations for both the community and the school. Following approval the class should develop a questionnaire to be used for the assignment. It should include an introduction from the teacher, a description of the assignment, a list of mathematical concepts to be identified, and several open ended questions. By creating the questionnaire together everyone understands the assignment, and feels a sense of ownership. It is also important to create similar guidelines so that results may be compared. A copy of the questionnaire is given to each student and they select a person they wish to interview.
Encourage students to select a wide range of occupations as it makes the assignment much more interesting. If the student chooses a parent there is usually no need to contact them, but if they don't know the person the teacher should set up the interview. Once the interviews and questionnaires have been completed a large chart can be placed on the wall which indicates the concepts used by each occupation. Based on this data students construct graphs and calculate percentages to be included in their reports. The reports are then presented to either small groups or the entire class. Discussion regarding trends and tendencies brings closure to the process. Students should recognize that the data may fail to include applications of mathematics used to construct equipment or materials that the person uses. Marks are given based on evaluation of reports, presentations, and a quiz on the discussion of the data. Feel free to alter the assignment to fit you. Here is an example of how to organize the concepts you wish to identify.
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