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Math in Real Life

Context for this Lesson

Teaching Strategies: 

TOPIC: Math in the real-world

GRADE LEVEL: 5th Grade


  • What are some math skills that are important in life?
  • How do we use math in and out of school?
  • Why is it important to have the ability to use math in our daily lives?

EDUCATION STANDARDS: The following standards demonstrate the importance/prevelance of placing math concepts in real-world contexts: 


§111.7. Mathematics, Grade 5

(b) Knowledge and Skills.

  • (1) Mathematical process standards. The student uses mathematical processes to acquire and demonstrate mathematical understanding. The student is expected to:
    • (A) apply mathematics to problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace;
  • (3)(A) estimate to determine solutions to mathematical and real-world problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division; 

Common Core State Standards:

Grade 5 

5.NF - Number and Operations - Fractions 

  • (6) Solve real world problems involving multiplication of fractions and mixed numbers, e.g., by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem

5.MD - Measurement and Data

  • (1) Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05 m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems.
  • (5) Relate volume to the operations of multiplication and addition and
    solve real world and mathematical problems involving volume.
5.G - Geometry 
  • Graph points on the coordinate plane to solve real-world and mathematical problems.


  • Math Headlines/Other examples of math in real life
  • Large paper
  • Markers

Artifacts (Headlines, and other examples of Math in real life)

The facilitator has students gather in a large seated circle and brings a bag full of items to the center. One at a time, items are pulled out of the bag and passed around the circle. All of the artifacts contain examples of “math in real life” such as newspaper headlines, images, and a weather chart. The students are asked to move through a line of questions that lead to a deep interrogation and discussion of the mathematic examples.


· Describe: What do you see? What types of artifacts do we have?

· Analyze: What math concepts do these things make you think of? How was math used?

· Relate: How do these artifacts relate to math skills? Is there something that you are your family is familiar with?

Transition: Now that we’ve had a chance to physically examine some artifacts that contain examples of math in our everyday lives, we’re going to add to the list. I’d love you to think of your own home, our school, and our classroom. Math may be hidden in different activities or artifacts that you interact with every single day. This next activity will allow you to brainstorm with your tribes about what these examples are, and what they look like. Let’s all move back to our tribes, while moving I want you to be looking around the room for possible examples.


Explore: Graffiti Alphabet


The facilitator begins the next activity by dividing the group into their tribes. Each tribe is given a large piece of blank paper and a set of markers. Tribes are asked to explore the theme of “math in real life” by generating a list of related words each of which begin with a different letter of the alphabet e.g., the theme is museum and the group writes down the words: amazing, balanced, curator, docent, educational . . . Students are encouraged to note their A-Z words in a graffiti style. The tribes may opt to use images instead of words where appropriate. If necessary the facilitator can provide a time limit to encourage engagement and immediacy with the group. The facilitator then brings the class together to process and reflect on each tribe’s lists or asks the students to share some of their words from their seats.


· Describe: What do we see on each of the papers? Describe the words, colors, or shapes that you see.

· Analyze: What do the papers have in common? What words or images stand out the most? Are there words or images that you don’t understand? 

· Relate: Think back to your tribe posters. Would you include anything from these papers? Are there at least 3 things from each poster that you can relate to in your life?

Transition: What great lists and images! Having created these lists we’re now going to move into a creative writing exercise. Imagine that we’re all news reporters and that it’s your job to write for the Austin Chronicle. What kind of news articles would you like to write? What current events or community subjects excite you the most? How does math affect the subject that interests you?


Writing Exercise/Reflection: Write our own Headlines The facilitator then asks the students to synthesize their brainstorming, and observations into an example of “math in real life” that they will be in charge of creating. Each student is asked to write a headline that somehow includes mathematics. They should decide what subject area they will write their article about, and how math is incorporated. The facilitator can have the students write a full article or just a headline. The facilitator can then have the students share as a group and reflect on the process.


· Describe: What words do you see in the headlines? What did we do to create our headlines/articles?

· Analyze: How do these headlines/articles relate to a math concept or skill? Where might our headlines/articles be found?

· Relate: How do our headlines and articles provide evidence that math can be found in everyday life, as well as, in school?

Extensions/Applications : 

Homework Assignment: Bring in an Article and Headline

The facilitator has the students bring in a newspaper headline and article or a magazine headline and article that demonstrates “math in real life.”

Transition: Thank you for brining in your examples. I’m excited to see how deeply we’re all thinking about this subject. We have some interesting articles, but I think they also need to be illustrated with pictures. In your tribes please pick one article to work on together as a group.