Real World Math Is Fun! Especially When It Involves Puppies

by Todd Miller, Middle School Faculty

Real World Math is a longstanding Focus Day that continues to evolve as students (and their faculty) come up with more creative ways to integrate math into the curriculum.  In the morning, the students worked in groups in a car insurance simulation.  They first studied a bit about how factors affect insurance costs, such as gender, age, car type, driving history, and grades.  Then, they set premiums for different groups through a blind auction.  We run a simulation, and they either make or lose money.  We had many rounds so that they had the chance to learn from the emerging patterns. They also filmed a 30-second insurance commercial.  The most successful students in the insurance simulation and those with the most creative commercials were rewarded with seed money for the afternoon market (see simulation money below).

In the afternoon, all the students joined the workforce.  First, they completed basic math handouts for little money (a la the first job out of college). Some kids were paid to be graders.  Then, they started their business by renting space.  They were given guidelines in advance about what they could sell–for example, food had to be somewhat handcrafted–and allowed to choose their own groups.  Then they proceeded to have an open market, buying and selling goods and services.  There were two tax collectors who collected money from all profiteers throughout the activity.  At the end, students measured success based on profit.

In addition to the usual junk-food bodegas, some of the new businesses on display this year included a petting zoo with several adorable puppies, video-game stations, a taco stand, and a slack line.  If you guessed that the most lucrative business was the petting zoo–you’re right!  Who can resist a pile of puppies?