PBL Reflection: How & Why for Math?

I believe even since I become a New Tech teacher two years ago, the number of resources for math teachers wanting to use PBL has grown significantly. One resource I am excited about is http://betterlesson.com/.  This website is searchable by Common Core Standard and all of the lessons I have explored included all of the documents necessary to implement.  Furthermore, each lesson includes videos from the creator to offer the rationale of using certain activities within the project.

For the most part, I have used more Problem-Based (PrBL) rather than Project-Based learning in my classroom.  The smaller scale and scope of the PrBL model is honestly less frightening when considering the number of standards that need to be covered in a school year.  However, as I learn more about developing a better project, I want to phase in more projects. Based on several articles I have read, opportunities for projects that are cross-curriculum and real-world in nature will better serve my students.

One particular article was written by Telannia Norfar, a national faculty member of the Buck Institute for Education (BIE).  Her article “How and why should math be taught using PBL?” challenges the notion that following the traditional pattern of teaching mathematics is not necessarily the best option for students. In fact, Norfar suggests that “Some of the greatest math students have no concept of the application of math” (2012). This is because real world math usually does not simply reduce down into a formula.  Rather, it is often open-ended, complex, and ill-structured.  Furthermore, there may be multiple pathways to develop multiple solutions to the same problem.

Norfar also states that “any project you plan is authentic when you don’t see subjects separated” (2012). Real-world problems often require research, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and analyze to develop a solution: 21st-century skills mastered in courses of history, English, science, and mathematics.  Based on Norfar’s words, my “Campus Beautification Project” has begun on the right track. Beyond the partnership of Geometry and Agri, students will need to draw from their knowledge and skills from English, science, and even art to finish and defend their flower box designs proficiently.


Norfar, T. (2012, January 27). How and why should math be taught using PBL? Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://bie.org/blog/how_and_why_should_math_be_taught_using_pbl


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