9 Ways to Make Math Relevant


“I’m never going to use this!” Chances are, if you teach math, you’ve had a student say something along these lines. Yet, math is a vital part of our daily lives. From checking the temperature or deciding what to wear, to knowing if you have enough money to purchase an item or figuring out how long it will take to get somewhere, math is a part of everyday life. Here are nine ways to make math relevant for your students and inspire them to embrace math in the real-world.

1. Follow Current Events

Connect math to social studies by following current events in the news. Students may be surprised by how frequently numbers are cited in news stories. Start by identifying a grade appropriate print, online, or video news sources like PBS NewsHour Extra. Then, have students keep a journal of articles that cite numbers and analyze how the data is presented as part of the news story.

2. Partake in a Math Competition

Quality math competitions will challenge students to apply their knowledge in ingenious ways. Encourage creative problem-solving and build teamwork skills by enrolling students in a competition like Odyssey of the Mind.

3. Teach Personal Finance

If there is one math skill every person should master, it is money management. Although students typically learn how to add and subtract money, learning how to budget, invest, and manage debt are essential when it comes to ensuring a secure financial future. Get started with these ideas on teaching personal finance.

4. Play Games

Games are a fun way of incorporating math learning into the classroom while engaging students in play. Many classic board games help develop counting skills, number recognition, and fact fluency through the use of dice, spinners, and cards. Online math games are a high-interest activity for today’s tech-savvy students and many also support math standards and curricula.

5. Plan a Road Trip

Planning a road trip can help students hone their math skills while also studying geography. Divide students into groups, provide a budget, and have them research, design, and present a print or digital travel brochure of their road trip. Require that each group provides a breakdown of costs, including miles per gallon for fuel, meals, lodging, and admission fees to attractions.

6. Get Cooking

Many kids love to cook. Apply math to daily life by having students practice their culinary math skills. Not only does cooking allow students to practice skills like conversions, fractions, and proportions, but they also get a tasty meal or snack at the end!

7. Root for the Home Team

Whether you have students who participate in sports, play sports video games, or simply love to watch a good game, statistics play a key role in athletics. Challenge students to watch or participate in a sport, then record and graph data about the game. Alternatively, look for sporting events that provide educational materials like these Iditarod math teaching resources.

8. Study the Mathematics of Music

From patterns to frequency, music is mathematical. Elementary students can connect the arts and math by listening to music and identifying patterns. High school students can dig deeper into the mathematical structure of music by studying harmonics or looking at new ways of seeing music.

9. Celebrate Math Holidays

Math holidays and theme days are a great hook for inspiring students to learn math. Join Global Math Week in October, connect math and literacy on Math Storytelling Day in September, or celebrate any of the multitude of math holidays throughout the year.

How do you make math relevant for students in your classroom? Share your ideas in the comments. For more math teaching resources, try Help Teaching’s free math worksheets and math lessons.

Posted By Lori Leclair

Lori Leclair is a freelance educational content developer. Using her classroom teaching experience coupled with her obsessive attention to detail, Lori crafts quality math and science materials designed for students and teachers. She currently serves as Help Teaching's Manger of Science and Math Content. When not devising and assessing curriculum materials, Lori can be found reading, camping with her family, or watching a youth baseball game from the bleachers.

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