For those of us who find Dan Meyer’s 3-Act lessons helpful in the classroom, Dane Ehlert http://whenmathhappens.com/ has another boatload of great tasks. Today I tried http://wmh3acts.weebly.com/jack-in-the-box.html to kick off applications of rational equations for my older, traditionally disaffected Algebra students. My students are familiar with D=RT but must now reach past that to more complicated tasks. Establishing relevance is one of my top priorities to motivate my students, and Jack-in-the-Box meets that demand.
What I found particularly useful was the career connections. Someone must make sure traffic flows. Someone must make sure building occupants can safely egress. Right off the top of my mind I think of degrees in traffic management and building inspectors. There are entire companies devoted to fire codes.
Tired of contrived examples? Look closely at the map Dane uses. Someone flies helicopters, takes pictures, takes measurements, analyzes… Compare that with a visualization of migration here: http://maps.tnc.org/migrations-in-motion/#4/19.00/-78.00 or traffic simulation here: http://www.traffic-simulation.de/
That is the way I framed this task because while it is a very basic idea of the kinds of thinking done for many careers, it is close enough that my students could see the connections. These kids need to know there is more out there than becoming a “police man, fireman, or nurse.” While people who do those jobs are truly heroes, there are other exciting jobs that pay well and are in high demand. Because of our evolving, increasingly technological society, our economic future depends on STEM. It’s time we help our students understand what some of those options are.