Is this important?

When students ask, “Why do we have to learn this?” they are truly asking, “Is this important?”  According to Marzano, teachers and the curriculum should connect to students’ lives, connect to students’ life ambitions, and encourage application of knowledge. Chapter 4 of Marzano’s book, The Highly Engaged Classroom, provides a variety of activities to help students connect the content with their life.

  1.  Use a variety of comparison tasks to connect the curriculum to personal interest. Compare characteristics, processes, sequence of events, cause and effect relationships, fame or notoriety, analogical reasoning tasks.
  2. Connect to students’ life ambitions through personal projects. Students identify their long term goals. In certain phases the students identify the need for certain knowledge, skills, critical thinking, etc. and learn the roles of heroes and role models.
  3. Encourage the application of knowledge with challenging tasks using decision making, problem solving, experimental inquiry and investigation.

Here I thought making up a humanitarian word problem was all that’s needed:

A volunteer organization delivered 32 tons of wheat to a drought stricken African nation. This is enough food to feed about 2,080 people for a month.  One ton feeds how many people in a month? If one ton equals 2000 pounds, how many pounds of food does one person eat in a month? Round your answer to the nearest whole number.

The problem is real world, but it’s not enough.

The standard is 6NS2, dividing multi-digit numbers. I originally created this problem as an example of a level 4 problem. In its current form it certainly does not use decision making, problem solving, experimental inquiry, or investigation.  But with some tweaking it can be a rich task.

I have a couple of ideas to create a decision making task that entails comparing two ways to schedule the delivery of food. But I right now they are in my head and not on paper.

How would you alter the problem?


4 thoughts on “Is this important?

  1. From top of my head (made mostly of jam) I was thinking to show a video to illustrate the lack of water/food in the region, show the people affected. Then end video with caption, like, “How much food would it take to feed the people here for one month?” No numbers given except the 1 month part. By taking away information, then we’re now allowing kids to investigate and research and ask questions on their own.

  2. Or link to a new crisis, and ask how much food they need to go in every day? Or look at the population increase and ask how much extra food is needed every day. and what does that amount of food look like (I’d expect an answer like how many rooms in your school, in England how many double-decker buses). And how it might get there.
    In my school, I like the nose-leading first, or they’ll just be bumps on a log, But after that, maybe they can cope.
    Stealing this now – thanks.

  3. The conversion from tons to pounds seems like a math teacher’s contrivance more than a requirement of the practical problem. I get it, though. We want kids to work with proportions. Perhaps a better application of proportions to this scenario would be to ask many pounds should be bread, fats, milks, etc., based on the food pyramid.

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