Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a method of teaching that allows students to interact and apply the principles they are learning in the classroom to real-world experiences. Often, this method is used in curriculum where critical thinking is encouraged including such subjects as history, social studies, and even science. Where this method is becoming more popular, however, is in the subject of math. 

Math curriculum has notoriously been known through the inclusion of problem-solving methods with having only one correct answer. Often, teachers will pair or group students together to devise an answer to the problem using various grade-level learning techniques. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, however, teachers have found it difficult to create a community of thought-leaders within their math classrooms. 

Thought-Provoking Methods to Solving the Equation

PBL methods include a lot of open-ended questions to building a discussion and solving a problem. Widely used in subjects such as social studies or history, PBL is an effective way to promote learned and retained knowledge in the subject of math, too. 

Encouraging the inclusion of open-ended questions in math can be attributed to enhanced knowledge of everyday learning. Two examples include:

  • Ratios and retail shopping: To enhance the students’ knowledge of identifying and defining ratios, teachers can encourage the use of retail information found online or in newspapers. Students can calculate and compare unit prices of similar items sold at different retailers and determine which retailer offers the best deal. 
  • Common multiples and patterns: Identifying patterns from certain mathematical sequences allows students to visualize common multiples easier. For example, the teacher can ask students to list the first 10 multiples of 6 and the first 10 multiples of 9, then identifying patterns such as which numbers appear on both lists. 

Encouraging students to see the relationships and patterns between numbers and asking them if they can come up with an alternative to representing certain numerical information allows the student to understand the context of the problem that they are attempting to solve by explaining it in alternative forms.

Expanding the Lesson to Solve Complex Problems

PBL can be a daily assignment or a longer project that requires time, research, and a written report. Once students become comfortable with solving and answering problems using open-ended questions, it can lead to students collaborating on a complex written assignment. 

The math teacher can set each group up with an introduction to the problem, some background knowledge and information, and then, throughout the unit, the teacher can continuously refer to the project and how it relates to the lesson being taught. 

Two examples of this type of project-based learning include:

  • Taking measurements to identify angles and slopes: Groups of students can design a plan to retrofit an existing local building to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. The project should encourage them to include scale diagrams of ramps that outline the appropriate slope and pathways of the building and surrounding land using accurate measurements.
  • Constructing geometric art: This project encourages creativity with mathematics. Students can create, or re-create, a piece of art using a compass and a straightedge ruler, identifying different geometric shapes, angles, and patterns.

Project-based learning is an effective way to encourage all students to use different parts of their brain to solve a problem. When it comes to the subject of math, PBL can be time consuming for the teacher and for the students, and it must be well planned and communicated for it to be effective. Despite the added time it takes to plan, teachers will see their students using important critical thinking skills to solve equations and discuss various problems, improving the students’ overall self-confidence and ability to reason.