One of my goals as a math teacher is to present real-life math every chance I get. It is not always easy, I have to admit. When I was in college and the earlier part of my teaching career, I was all about the math… not how I might could use it in real life. I’ve made it a goal of mine to find real-life situations. I’ve also tried to catch the situation in action, but it’s not always possible especially since sometimes I think of an idea while driving or when I’m falling asleep at night.
My recent thoughts have been about arithmetic sequences. Seems easy, right? They are linear. There are a ton of linear situations. Yes, but I want visuals! I also did not want the situation to be a direct variation or always positive numbers and always increasing or positive slopes.
Below are some of the situations I’ve come up with along with a picture. I’m happy for you to use these situations with your classes. Enjoy!
Stacking cups, chairs, bowls etc. (Stacking anything works, but the situations is different when one thing fits inside the other.) The idea is comparing the number of objects to the height of the object.
Pyramid-like patterns, where objects are increasing or decreasing in a constant manner. Ideas for this are seats in a stadium or an auditorium. A situation might be that seats in each row are decreasing by 4 from the previous row. I use this in one of my arithmetic sequence worksheets.
Filling something is another good example. The container can be empty or already have stuff in it. An example could be a sink being filled or a pool being filled. (Draining should also be considered!) The rate at which the object is being filled versus time would be the variables.
Seating around tables. Think about a restaurant. A square table fits 4 people. When two square tables are put together, now 6 people are seated. Put 3 square tables together and now 8 people are seated. I really love this example. You can use a rectangular table as well and start off with 6 seats.
Fencing and perimeter examples are always nice. Discuss how adding a fence panel to each side of a rectangular fence would change the perimeter. Figure one could have one panel on each side (or change it so it isn’t square). Figure two could have two panels on each side. Each time find the new perimeter. The possibilities for fencing are endless. But how fun would it be to get actual toy fence pieces and do this in your classroom?!
Even though this is not particularly a real-life situation, it’s still good because the visual is real life. The students can touch the objects or even create the pattern themselves! Use toothpicks, paperclips or even cereal to make patterns. If you’d rather set them up somewhere in the room for math centers, then that would be good too! The following is an idea with cereal. If you count total Froot Loops, it’s not arithmetic, so it’s best to stick with rows, perimeter, or sides of the triangle to stay with a linear pattern. (Counting all of them is an area problem, so that would make it quadratic.)
Negative number patterns are not as easy to find. Our thoughts usually go to temperature or sea level. There are some fascinating places on earth that are below sea level. I think it would be cool to do a study on some of them. Once you’ve talked about some of these places, then various situations could be created like, during a rainfall the surface of the water started at 215 feet below sea level and rose at a rate of such and such per hour.
Situations involving diving in the ocean could be used as well. Did you know that a diver should descend at a rate no faster than 66 feet per minute or ascend at a rate of no more than 30 feet per minute? I’m sure many students don’t know why and this could certainly create some great accountable talk.
I hope I’ve given you plenty to think about. It’s really fun to create these problems. Students need to know that their math is real and useful! I hope this encourages you to use some of these examples or make up some of your own. I’d love to hear some of your examples. Leave a comment if you’d like. We can all learn from each other!
Some of the examples I used above are in my Arithmetic Sequence Activity seen below. When I was creating this resource, it really stretched my thinking. I wanted to create something that students could learn from and see how these patterns are involved in real-life situations. I’ve attached a couple more of my resources. I’m working on the geometric sequence activity now and hope to finish in a week or so. The second resource would be a great follow up after teaching arithmetic sequences. It’s a Boom Card Activity. The third resource is an arithmetic and geometric sequence and series game. It is really suited for Algebra 2. The resource at the bottom is a formula chart for geometric and arithmetic sequences and series. It’s a freebie, so take advantage and download from my store!
I could do exponential functions all year. I really enjoy them and think they are super fun. When I got my master’s degree, I did a study on exponential functions. I learned so much and I found that I was really interested in them. I created this first lesson more than 10 years ago and have been using it ever since! Creating that first activity sparked me into creating more and experimenting with some other ideas. I’m excited to share with you my list of 9 Must Do Exponential Function Activities!
(1) Exponential Function Poster Activity:
This is my very first exponential function activity that I ever created. It’s not the first lesson I teach when I’m starting this content, but it’s my favorite. This activity is the ultimate collaborative and differentiable activity. There are so many interesting exponential function situations! It’s been tried, tested and tweaked. Basically this lesson is a collaborative activity where the students are given an exponential scenario. The groups must create a multi-rep poster where they collect data, draw a graph, write an equation and answer a question.
The lesson opener is a bacteria problem. I want every student to get a feel of how they should work through one of these scenarios. The bacteria problem talks about what bacteria are and how they can multiply very quickly. I help the students go through the multi-representations to make sure they know what is expected of them when they start their poster.
Next, I show them their choices which are:
A Chain Letter Problem
A Zombie Situation
A Tournament Bracket
A College Football Situation
Making Friendship Bread
A Lovely Cockroach Scenario
Every situation usually gets chosen. You can entice students to create their own situation too. The college football situation was a student idea from years ago that I have improved upon to make it work better. Your students are amazing and creative, so don’t think that they wouldn’t be able to make up a situation of their own. The student of mine that created the football problem was not one of my top students, but because he was the one that thought of the scenario, he was interested and did a great job of completing the task.
After the bacteria problem, I turn the students loose and let them start their work. They are told to be creative and display the information in a way that is interesting and pleasing. I tell them to title the poster and make sure every person in the group writes on the poster. I supply the poster paper, the markers and the scenario sheets.
I’ve learned to watch out for misconceptions. Some students when creating graphs, will take the exact y-values and place those numbers on the y-axis. Here is an example below that I didn’t catch until it was too late. I cringe when I see this! (Not a very creative poster either…ugh!)
Once the posters have been created, it’s time for the Gallery Walk! I want the students to check out at least 4 posters. I’ve created a page that students fill in while looking at the posters. They have to write the title of the poster, determine the domain and range, decide if the situation is growth or decay and then write down one thing they may wonder about the situation. The conversations that I hear are amazing. They love getting to look at the other posters and they love to critique them as well.
I’ve had feedback from teachers that have taken my activity and changed it to fit their needs. One teacher used a speed dating strategy where the students worked through a problem on their own and became the expert. The possibilities are endless. Each teacher has their own unique way of teaching and their own unique classroom situation. If you have a group of rowdy kids that you don’t want up running around, then let them do their own problem on notebook paper or graph paper. You could even let them create the table and graph in excel and present the problem in a PowerPoint.
(2) Exponential Function Activity in Google Slides Form
Out of necessity last year, I created a Google Sides version of the lesson above. I’m having a hard time deciding which one to use this year. Instead of making posters, the students create the table, graph and equation in Google Slides. This doesn’t sound very exciting except that my whole class was in the same Google Slides all working at the same time. I was 2000 miles away monitoring the activity. They asked me questions and I could see them working in real time. I loved it so much that I’m honestly going to have a hard time deciding what I should use. Maybe I’ll let one class do the posters and one class do the digital form and compare the two. If you are big into digital resources you will love this. I now have this version in my TpT store: Google Slides Exponential Functions Activity. Below is one of the slides that I graded. Looking at this now, I should have asked the students if this situation was discrete or continuous.
(3) Tower of Hanoi
Find a Tower of Hanoi game on the internet or have the students download an app on their phone. The object of the game is to move the discs from one stack to another stack in the least amount of moves. You can never put a larger disc on top of a smaller one. The number of discs and the least number of moves is an exponential function. It’s fun to let the students play a while and get them to create a table of the number of discs and the least number of moves and then see if they can figure out the exponential function.
(4) Twizzler Decay Activity
Tasty and fun. This is a freebie I’d like to share with you! I love using this as a quick lesson opener. Students measure a Twizzler and jot down the data in a chart. The student folds the Twizzler in 1/2, cuts it and measures it. Each time the student continues this step until there is not enough Twizzler left to work with. They plot the table and then lots of discussions can take place about decay or even the concept of half-life. Click Here for the Freebie: Exponential Function Twizzler Freebie
(5) Exponential Function Unit
This is the first thing I start with when I introduce Exponential Functions in Algebra 2. I refuse to stand up and lecture over this topic so I let the students work through this unit at their own pace. I copy the pages as a booklet. Students can use a calculator and even partner up if they want to work with someone. I let them work through the unit and figure out most of the information by graphing and using the information that they have already learned earlier in the year about transformations and domain and range. I do have to talk about asymptotes because we have not discussed this concept much up to this point. I teach on a block schedule and it takes most students a good 2 class periods to get this packet done. Topics covered are transformations, e, compound interest, 1/2 life, growth, decay, domain, range, y-intercepts, asymptotes, an inverse problem, writing equations from tables, growth and decay model scenarios, a paper folding activity, assessments and bell ringers and lesson closers. There’s a ton of information. I usually get the students to trade and grade after all is said and done. I feel like they learn a lot by working through this on their own. Students need to see that they can work on their own and figure things out. If you are interested, click the link: Exponential Functions Unit.
(6) Exponential Function Task Cards
I have a set of 20 Exponential Functions Task Cards. For some reasons, students do very well with task cards. If you put these same 20 questions on a worksheet, some students will be bored or are overwhelmed with thinking about doing a 20 question worksheet and they will give up. Take the same 20 questions and put one on a card, now they will sit there and work through them. It’s amazing! This set of task cards would be a great review right before an assessment. The task cards cover recognizing growth and decay from an equation, transformations, key features of graphs, the growth and decay model and compound interest.
(7) Sierpenski’s Triangle
How do you get all of these activities done? Part of my strategy is to do them in stations. Really math labs or centers would be more accurate. It would be hard to time these stations and expect students to be completely finished with each task. The Sierpenski Triangle activity, the Tower of Hanoi and several more exponential phenomena are discovered and tinkered with during my Exponential Stations Resource.
I love the Sierpinski Triangle activity because not only do the students create beautiful art work, they have to collect data on the number of shaded or unshaded triangles. We then put all of the triangles together to make a giant Sierpinski Triangle!
(8) Compound Interest Study
Students are told that they have inherited some money but to receive it, they must follow some rules. Every student in the class will probably end up with a different situation. Each student gets 4 cards that tell them how much money they inherited, how long they have to invest it and 2 different compounding options to compare. They work through their problem and then share their information. This study sparks lots of good conversations and helps the students realize that compounding doesn’t make much difference but time invested does make a difference! Get the Compound Interest Study Here!
(9) Marble Slides Exponential Function Desmos Activity
If you aren’t using the Desmos Graphing Resources, you need to start. I love the Marble Slides Activities and so do the students. There are several Marble Slides Activities for various functions. The object is to change the equations so that when the marbles are dropped, they travel the correct route and hit all of the stars which means success. Students learn how to manipulate the equations so that the marbles do just what they want. Very fun and engaging!
So there you have it! If you can get most of these activities and lessons done, then your students will know tons of awesome math content. I have all of these activities bundled (except for the google slides activity) into one package for 20% off. If you are intersted, then click on the pic below. If there is something that you can’t find, please let me know. I’d love to add things that teachers are looking for. Thanks for visiting this article.