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Why Math?


Students always ask the question,” Why do I need to know this?” This unit helps students analyze the processes used in making important decisions and how significant decisions affect the future. After exploring and collecting data on the benefits of math classes, students reevaluate their own choices for math classes. Students use the Seeing Reason Tool to create a map that represents this investigation and answers questions that require data that shows the effect of taking rigorous math courses.


Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    What processes do you use to make important decisions?
  • Unit Questions
    How can taking more rigorous math classes affect one’s future?
    How can you quantify the outcomes of taking more rigorous math classes?
  • Sample Content Questions
    What are some ways that you can mathematically represent survey data?
    How do you graph variables to find a line of best fit to predict trends?



This project idea makes use of the Seeing Reason Tool. Examine the Seeing Reason Web site and familiarize yourself with the tool. 


Start with asking students the Essential Question, What processes do you use to make important decisions? In small groups, have students each share one example of an important decision they had to make in their life, how they made that decision, and how it impacted their future. After the group discussion time, facilitate a whole class discussion on the question, Do you think the classes you are taking now could affect your future?  Eventually, lead this discussion to emphasize math courses. Have students write down their current plan for how much math they plan on taking through high school with a rationale for their choices. 


As a class, create a Seeing Reason map which will serve as the basis for students’ research. Ask the question, Do the benefits of taking more math classes outweigh the disadvantages? Facilitate a discussion on the factors involved when considering math education. Continue the discussion to include several hypothesizes between factors represented as relationships. Use Seeing Reason as a tool to represent the thinking that occurs during the class discussion. Assign students in pairs to investigate one of the relationships on the map.

Examine the Seeing Reason Activity

The Seeing Reason Tool space below represents one team's investigation in this project. The map you see is functional. You can roll over the arrows to read relationships between factors, and double-click on factors and arrows to read the team's descriptions.

Project Name: Benefits of Math Education (Click here to set up this project in your workspace)
Question: Do the benefits of taking more math classes outweigh the disadvantages?

Explore an interactive demo.

Benefits of Math Education

Explain to students they now need to collect data which supports (or disproves) the hypothesized relationship in which they have been assigned from the Seeing Reason class map. Present the question, How can you quantify the outcomes of taking more rigorous math classes? An example of possible questions that student pair’s research from the class map: Does the likelihood of college admission increase with the number of math courses taken? or Does your income increase as your number of years of math education increases?

Discuss ways to collect data, for example, they could poll 12th graders on what math courses they have taken from jr. high school and what their future plans are for after high school. Tell students they can add anything else they would like to the survey that assists in validating the relationship in which they are assigned. As an option, suggest doing another survey to collect similar data from seniors at a local university. Tell them they must look for ways in which they can quantify consequences as it relates to math classes.

Instruct students how to mathematically represent the survey data through graphing the variables and finding a line of best fit to predict trends. Deliver lessons on how to create scatter plots with the data to check for correlations between variables. Guide students on how to gather data and statistics, using the Internet, on the impact of the number of math courses or more rigorous math courses completed in high school and college. (Census data is available the National Center for Education Statistics*). Discuss the basics of statistics and give examples of how researchers use statistics to convey a message.

Assess student pairs’ progress by checking their research for logical relationships between factors supported by their data.

Once student pairs are done with their research, have them present their data and final conclusions to the class. Assess pairs on their use of graphical representation of data, logic of their conclusions, and method of data collection. Represent their final conclusions on the Seeing Reason class map.

Have students journal on how their thinking changed (or not) from the first class map to the revised class map after the research from all pairs are represented on the map.

An example of using a graph to support a relationship from the Seeing Reason map:

Math chart

Have students write their final reflective statements about the effect(s) of taking more rigorous math courses in high school. As a final assessment piece, ask students to write a plan specifying their current thinking in terms of math courses they plan to complete during the remainder of their high school career with a rationale based on an interpretation of the map.

As a final journal entry, ask the students to revisit the Essential Question, What processes do you use to make important decisions? Have them explain their answer as it pertains to their course of action created.

Why Math?

At a Glance

Grade Level: 9-10

Subjects: Math, School to Work

Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Prediction, Data Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation

Key Learnings: Correlations, Graphing, Functions, Scatter Plots, Line of Best Fit, Statistics

Time Needed: 5-7 Days