IMPACTful Discussion - Connecting Industry to Mathematics Instruction

By Julia H. Smith posted 04-01-2023 19:39:45


When am I ever going to use this?

How many times have you heard students say, “When am I ever going to use this?” For me, I heard it every semester at least once a semester, in every class I taught. Growing up there was never a question in my mind as to what I intended to be when I grew up. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and my love of math pointed me in that direction. Because I was focused on my one career goal, I truly did not have an answer to the question, “When am I ever going to use this?” The Connecting Industry to Mathematics (CIMI) Grant has answered that question and completely changed the way I approach projects in my courses.

What is the CIMI Grant

CIMI is a three-year, National Science Foundation Grant awarded in 2020 to Wake Technical Community College (WTCC) in partnership with Wake County Public Schools and Wake Ed Partnership for the purpose of developing industry-inspired activities for use in the classroom. Each summer, a combination of Wake County Public School Math 4 teachers along with 4 Math Teachers from WTCC participated in a two-week summer workshop during which they

  • were immersed in local industries virtually for two days. 

  • participated in professional development with a focus on equity and diversity.

  • learned about the resources and programs at Wake Tech that are available to their students.

  • spent time writing activities from the immersions.

  • gave and received feedback on other CIMI activities.

After the workshop, the teachers agreed to implement at least three activities per semester in their math classes and participated in four follow-on days during which they edited their activities and received additional professional development.

How to implement the CIMI Activities 

There are many ways to implement the CIMI Grant in your classroom. All of them use the Launch, Explore, Discuss Pedagogy which is used in North Carolina Public K-12 schools and is designed in a way so that the teacher acts as a facilitator and the students investigate the problem at hand.

I will outline a couple ways that I have done this in my classes over the past three years. One thing to note about the CIMI grant is that it was never designed to be a virtual project. COVID in 2020 caused us to have to pivot to a virtual platform for our project. 

In my online classes, students are given a full week to complete one project and are given suggested due dates along the way. Students are also expected to meet virtually to complete the explore activity and discuss parts of the project. The launch part is done individually. Each launch part consists of a Desmos activity which contains pre-requisite skills, terminology, and a link to a professional launch video that assigns the project to the student. As I stated earlier, the students are expected to meet to complete the explore part of the activity as a group and then to meet again to answer the discussion questions. The discussion questions must be recorded in a video and submitted so the whole class can view them. Each student is required to watch the other group's videos and comment on at least two. I give them parameters for their responses to the videos to avoid comments such as, “Great video”.

In my hybrid classes, the students complete the launch outside of class, the explore part during class, and then the discuss together in class. In a hybrid class, I can walk around and check on students' work during the explore part. The teacher in me wants to stop students when they are wrong and tell them how to fix it, but the goal is for them to do the exploring and to struggle to achieve an answer. As I observe students, I offer hints and suggestions to help them along the way.

This has been a new way of learning for my students and it has been met with excitement and frustration but by the end, the majority of students like seeing how math is useful in other careers.