Posts Tagged ‘lesson plans’

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.

GeoTech Center GIS Lesson Plans

Monday, December 7th, 2009


As this week’s episode indicates, GIS — geographic information sciences — is a hot topic right now. But what is all the fuss about — and, more importantly for educators, how do you teach GIS to students?

To answer those questions, we turned to the The National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence; an NSF-funded consortium of academics, government and industry dedicated to growing GIS education. GIS is booming because it has applications across many industries, from green energy and forestry to urban planning and even homeland security. “Any field that needs to know something about what is where, why is it there and how it has changed over time can benefit from using geospatial technology,” explains Ann Johnson, Higher Education Manager for ESRI, a GIS software company and a GeoTech Center partner.

Ann’s company hosts a GIS Education Community online that lets educators share their GIS lesson plans. On the site you’ll find everything you need to prepare a lesson on the real-world applications of GIS technology. Here are three examples of what’s available:

Landslides in Washington – 3D Investigations: Students use GIS software to explore the cause of a massive October 2009 landslide in Washington State.
Scariest Road in the World? Death Road, Bolivia: GIS shows why the notorious “El Camino del Muerte” between La Paz and Coroico, Bolivia is worthy of its name.
Water Use Analysis with GIS: Students learn valuable skills by analyzing actual data from the U.S. Census and other sources.

    You can also visit ESRI’s YouTube channel to see these lesson plans in action. Hopefully these materials will inspire educators reading this to consider adding GIS to their curricula. Thanks again to ESRI’s Ann Johnson and to GeoTech Center Director Phillip Johnson for their help with this post!