Starbucks Mug Project
My last visit to Impact Academy I had the pleasure of seeing some really fantastic project work in a math class. This project was individualized, has a real-life application, and is completely made possible by the technology available to that is available to the students.
The students were presented with the below scenario and asked to answer these questions: is it worth it? How do you know?
Except for the cost of the mug, which was given by the teacher, the students had to determine the other factors. Meaning, they picked which Starbucks beverage they would get unlimited access to, which size they wanted and how many times per week they would get their chosen beverage.
In this case the student chose: Peppermint Mocha, Tall, costs $4.30. The students then created tables to display their data.
These tables demonstrate the students ability to represent the input output relationships and perform these calculations. This was also a way for the student to keep track of their data while they try to figure out how much money they could potentially save, or not save, depending on the scenerio they chose. It was also a nice example of how formal equations and notation can come alive when attached to a specific concrete example.
Students then graphed their tables so that they could analyze their data and make determinations about their scenarios.
The student’s presentation ended with some reflections about the relationships between the representations and the concepts. Additionally, the students determined that in order for the mug purchase to be cost effective, the latest day in the year that it could be purchase, for this specific student that date was October 22.
This project gave students an opportunity to work with tables, create graphs from these tables, to determine their equations, use the Equal Values Method to find the points of intersection for a system of equations, and interpret the meaning of the point of intersection. And all of these representations embedded in a real life situation. Not only did they get to do all of this math, but the students were really motivated, they took pride in their work and were excited to talk to me about what the stats were for their drink, as each case was unique.
Below are some screen shots from another example.
I also had a chance to speak with some students about their experience. When asked about the process of solving the problem Van responded “it was a very time consuming, we had to make a table for getting a drink different times a week, and then each table had a graph and then you had to figure out how much money you would make.” Samantha exclaimed “we even had to work on it at home, but it was better than doing homework on a piece of paper.” Nathalie contributed that “ it was fun making our own equations from the project.”
We also talked about some of the other skills that students had to use throughout the project. Nathalie said that “for the project we had to use our communication skills, because our teacher wanted us to work in small groups, so we really had to collaborate with our peers.” Samantha said “our teacher really wanted us to ask each other for help.”
I also was interested to hear their perspectives on doing projects in math class in general. Nathalie said “there is more pressure when it is a project, I feel like you have to really focus and make it right.” When asked more specifically about their feelings regarding the use of technology in math class, both for doing the project and for doing individual work, Van said, “I would rather work on the computer, because I can use the tech to make sure there are no mistakes. On computers, all of the stuff is just set up and it is ready to go.” All students really liked using google spreadsheets to create graphs. Nathalie also really liked that the students could make Starbucks ads for extra credit because really she liked being able to be creative.
When asked if they were surprised by their findings, Nathalie said, “I thought we would not really save that much money, I found was that the drinks were actually less expensive and we did save a little bit of money.” Van said, “where as I picked a high cost drink and went 3, 5, 7, times a week so mine accumulated more quickly, so my overall spending was $1500 and I would have more savings.”
Overall, the project allowed students to practice specific skills within a unique and individualized setting. The students felt invested in their work and could describe their findings articulately.
And as some icing on the cake, apparently Starbucks actually developed a similar bargain for Black Friday. The purchase of a personal tumbler for $65 gave the customer one free espresso drink per day for the month of January. This allowed the teacher to extend the project to further analyze whether this too would be a good deal, and the students really experienced the applicability and relevance of their work.