POP: How might I engage students in authentic real-world projects while balancing content and skills?

Displayed package designs – left side Maximizes Volume and right side Minimizes Volume

Background: My original POP focused on the balance between acquisition of skills and having students learn new skills through real-world projects and tasks. After receiving feedback from my department and students, I revised my POP to focus on the ‘play’ aspect of learning math. I provided students with play-do, foil, 3D figures and nets, formulas, online applications, in order for them to discover and make connections between surface area, volume, and how shifting one dimension changes the other. It was so fun!

Final/Authentic Task: Students were asked to create/build a box design that either: Minimizes Volume or Maximizes Volume – they got to choose! They did this before they were given the final project so they could see a hands-on version of different box designs. All students were given an 8.5X11 piece of cardboard and asked to build their own box! They had to use their box design, calculations, and Surface Area to Volume ratio as evidence for their new box design. I placed these boxes on the board so students could visually see which shapes maximized or minimized volume while they worked on their final projects. They used these images to help them make connections in their final project. It was really fun!

New POP: How do we balance the need for ‘play’ and exploration while still giving time to acquire skills/content and develop different strategies?

Thoughts for the Future: This activity was really fun, but I definitely ran out of time. In order for students to really dig deep into this activity, they will need two more days – one day for the calculations and one day for discussing what patterns they found and allow them to make connections. Ultimately, spending two days on this project significantly decreased the amount of time they needed for the final project, which was awesome, since they were able to build connections prior, but they still need more time – time, well spent!