Posts Tagged ‘algebra’

Lesson Plans: Real World Math

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

real world math

The economists are telling us that now may be the time to buy a house. According to a report this week in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, mortgage rates are the lowest on record. Real estate specialists tell us that there are lots of properties available. It’s a buyer’s market.

But why are we writing about this here? Because, like so many other real-life activities, becoming a homeowner involves a lot of math. Just listen to this sentence from the Bloomberg BusinessWeek article: “Buying a $300,000 home at current rates means a monthly mortgage bill of about $1,158, assuming a 20 percent down payment. Delaying a purchase until next year would put the tab higher, at $1,186, based on the MBA forecast for prices and rates. That amounts to an $18,000 difference over a 30-year mortgage for those who wait.”

As we’ve learned time and again from the educators, employers and employees featured on ATETV, math is critical for just about every technical skill and vocation. But there’s no question that math and algebra, in particular, have a lot of practical applications beyond the classroom and the workplace.

Think you’ll never use algebra in real life? We turned to ATE Central and found the following algebra lesson plans. They sound pretty valuable in today’s real estate market.

How Much Does This House Really Cost? Buying a house is likely to be the single largest financial purchase a person ever makes. And unless you’re in the enviable – and unlikely — position that enables you to pay the entire cost upfront, you’ll have to get a mortgage. Check out this lesson plan from the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education to learn how mortgages are calculated and to better understand what the costs of a property will be over the course of 30 years. Using a hypothetical mortgage amount, students enter their geographic living areas on a financial website to determine current mortgage interest rates (from dozens of nearby lending institutions).

Students then calculate the monthly mortgage payment using a given formulation, a scientific or graphing calculator and online interest rates and calculate the total amount paid for the house at the end of a 30-year mortgage, with interest included. They also compare results with the same mortgage calculated over 10, 15 or 20 years.

Okay, so students have taken out their hypothetical mortgages. But what if they’d like to pay those hypothetical loans off early? The Extra House Payments Effect lesson plan gives students a first-hand look at how financial institutions make use of monthly mortgage payments and describes mortgage amortization formulas. (The plan also explains the effect of making extra principal payments each month on both the length of the loan and the amount of interest to be paid – important lessons for everyone!)

Finally, new student “homeowners” can turn their attention to their lawns and landscaping. The Do I Have to Mow the Whole Thing? lesson plan helps students calculate dimensions for a garden of constant area, introducing them to the idea of inverse variation.

Check out ATE Central and the Real World Learning Objects Resource Library for more real-life lesson plans, including Cell Phone Algebra (in which students compare cell phone plans), Logarithms and Car Payments and Algebra for Athletes.

ATETV Episode 27: The Numbers Add Up

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

This week we begin by exploring Lasers and Photonics Technologies and Wind Energy technology, and end by focusing on the ways that community colleges are providing students with the core math skills they’ll need to succeed in both of these fields –as well as every other area of technology.

In our first segment, we meet Central Carolina Community College student Todd Devine, who is enrolled in the college’s Laser and Photonics Engineering program. “I have always liked lasers, and ever since I was little I was tinkering with things, and it’s just grown from there.” This lifelong interest is now evolving into a promising career path, with laser technology being used in fields as diverse as surgical procedures and music and video technology.

“Every day there is a new application coming out for lasers, so it’s creating a lot of jobs,” notes Central Carolina’s Gary Beasley. “And guess what? There are not enough technicians to support those applications in the medical field or in telecommunications.” But Central Carolina’s program aims to change that, and Todd Devine is proof positive.

“When I graduate, I think I am going to look toward the medical fields that are dealing with lasers, and help mankind in some way,” says Todd. “I want to do something useful for the world.”

Similarly, as we see in our second segment, the students in the Wind Energy program at Wyoming’s Laramie County Community College are also looking at their technology curriculum as important not just for their careers, but also for our environment and our society.

“When my students come to class, people aren’t sleeping,” says Laramie’s Michael Schmidt. “They are very focused on what they are learning. These people are excited.”

The Wind Energy program is designed to prepare technicians to go into the wind industry to repair utility skill wind turbines, large commercial machines with complex control systems that allow them to produce energy efficiently and to maximize capability. The highly skilled students who emerge from the program are versed in all aspects of wind energy technology, from introduction to wind power, to electricity, hydraulics, and all of the basic core skills needed to excel in the field.

And essential to students’ success is a firm foundation in mathematics. “Math and science are very critical,” adds Michael Schmidt. “Mathematics, specifically, apply to the technical part of the program. Our technicians have to have an understanding of how power is produced. They have to have an understanding of power quality because this power is ultimately delivered to a utility, ends up on a grid and is then delivered to the consumer.”

Which brings us to our third segment, which shows us why community colleges are great places for students to get up to speed in algebra, calculus and other core math skills.

“All technology goes back to math,” notes Scott Edwards of Juniper Networks. “The more you know about math, the better you understand it, and the more clear will be the complex topics that you are going to learn in the future.”

And community college programs provide the support and guidance to enable students to tackle the challenges of higher level mathematics. As Laser and Photonics student Todd Devine tells prospective students, “If you are struggling with math in high school right now, [you should know] that if you just study hard and work through it, it will all pay off.”

Adds Andrew Maynard of the Springfield Technical Community College faculty, “The nice thing about community colleges is that if you are not up to speed in math — whether because you’ve been out of school for awhile or because you had trouble with math in high school — we offer remedial classes to help bring you up to the college level, so you don’t fail.”

And, as this week’s episode shows, success in math translates to success in any technology career.