Well, since I’m preparing to start my first year of teaching, I decided that I really needed to finish posting the last few projects I did during my student teaching.
During my last week of student teaching, my cooperating teacher asked me to come up with a creative way to review some of the 8th grade math standards.
A lot of my students had been struggling with the concept of proportions. With lots of practice, they had been improving, but many students still weren’t comfortable with solving proportions.
I wanted to show students that proportions were definitely applicable to their lives. So, I created this pre-algebra road trip project. It actually turned into a 3-part project because the students were enjoying it so much.
Each student chose 5 cities to travel to on their road trip. Using a ruler, they drew out their route on a US map. Then, using the map scale, students determined the length of their road trip in miles.
Day 2 of the road trip project was spent using gas mileage and fuel costs for various vehicles to determine which vehicle students would take on their road trip.
On Day 3, we calculated food costs, hotel costs, and rental car costs. By the end of the 3-day project, students were much, much, much more comfortable working with ratios and proportions.
It was an amazing experience to see the light bulbs go off with so many of my students.
Looking back at Day 2 and 3, there are a ton of little things I would change. I actually changed the rental car problem on Day 3 because my students were having a ton of trouble with it. I just did a flat rate per day.
This pre-algebra road trip project is easily adjusted based on your time limitations and the level of your students. This was never intended on being a 3-day project. It just sort of evolved into one.
My 8th graders really enjoyed it. My cooperating teacher enjoyed it. My University Supervisor even observed me on Day 3 of the project.
The lesson was a little more chaotic than I had planned, but my supervisor complimented me on the project. He even asked for electronic copies of the files to send to some math teachers in China.
Edited to Add: I have also done this with my Algebra 1 students.
Since I had already done this project with 8th graders, I thought my Algebra 1 students would be able to whiz right through it. I was wrong. I had to teach many of my students how to read a ruler.
Rounding to the nearest quarter inch was a disaster. And, the questions students asked me made me feel more like a geography teacher than a math teacher.
These are actual conversations I had with my Algebra 1 students during this activity.
Me: Class, today we are going on a road trip. If we’re going on a road trip, that means we will be traveling on…
Me: Yes, so that means we can’t travel to…
Student 1: Why can’t you drive to Hawaii?
Me: Hawaii is an island. That means it is surrounded by water.
Student 2: Why does Hawaii look so weird?
Custodian who just happens to be emptying the trash at this point: Hawaii is a series of small islands.
Student 3: Do you mean you can’t drive between the little islands?
Custodian: No. When I was in Hawaii, we traveled between the islands by taking ferries.
Student 1: Is Washington, D.C. here? [The student is pointing at Washington state.]
Student 2: No, Washington, D.C. is in Virginia.
Student 1: I think this map is wrong.
Student 1: Oklahoma City should be above Tulsa.
Student 1: Do you mean Nashville, Tennessee is in the United States?
Me: Yes. Nashville is in the U.S.
Student 1: I’ve heard of it before, but I didn’t realize it was in the U.S.
I required my students to write both the city and the state they were visiting on their assignment. One student wrote that she was traveling to New Jersey, PA.
Free Download of Pre-Algebra Road Trip Project
Video with Instructions on Completing the Road Trip Project
I ran across a YouTube video that someone created to walk students through completing the Road Trip Project. I thought I would link it here in case it was of use to anybody.