During this “What is Healthy?” unit, I hope help students build an understanding of how they can use math to make more informed choices, and how math is used by others to produce the outcomes they desire, such as farmers plotting their fields, or advertisers trying to sell their cereals. Because research has proven that providing information in context helps students make connections and learn content more deeply, I believe this unit will be successful. I want students to learn and solidify the math concepts we learn, but more importantly, I want them to learn that math is something you do, and that by understanding it, you are more empowered to make good (and in this case, healthy) choices.

Essential Questions

• What role does math play in health?
• Can a solid understanding of math be used to improve health?
• How can math be used to make more informed choices?

Scope and Sequence

The 6th grade math unit portion of our ITSLU includes a study of number sense and operation (specifically fractions, percents, and decimals), relations and algebra, measurement, and data analysis and statistics, all designed to help students develop a deeper understanding and exploration of our theme of “What is Healthy?” as it applies to their lives and the lives of the people in the community around them. Many of the activities come from or are inspired by the National Council of Teachers Mathematics (NCTM) Illuminations website, and the journal Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School. Many of these areas will overlap during the lessons. The math unit will be approximately 4 weeks long, and many of the lessons will overlap with the science portion of the ITSLU.

Major Focus of the Math Unit

The activities of the math portion will have three main parts, all of which will focus on having students develop the ability to find connections between the math they are learning and their “real” world. Students will be able to choose from any of the three areas for their final assessment (see assessment for details).

1. How does our culture influence what we eat?
During the first part of the unit, we will discuss how our culture influences the foods we eat. We will discuss the idea that while we all need to eat, what we eat varies greatly from home to home, and in many cases, can tell a lot about where a person originates from. Because of the cultural makeup of the class (many students of Hispanic and Creole descent), this unit will focus on what makes us different, but what also makes us the same.
Parent/guardian involvement will play a large role in this portion of the unit, as students will have to talk to their parents to find out what food they eat that is influenced by their culture, and will also help the students find out what the main ingredients are.
  • Inquiry into how students’ cultures influence the foods they eat.
  • Students will find a recipe that is representative of what may be eaten in their culture.
  • Students will perform a nutritional analysis of the food – what major food groups are represented, what nutrients are represented, and what the nutritional breakdown is. They will relate this to what their healthy diet requires.
  • The goal of this unit is not to point out the faults of a culture’s food, but to explore the idea that all food is okay in moderation, and that foods can be altered to make them healthier.
  • Part of the assessment for this portion of the unit is having students (with their parents/guardians) cooking the foods they explored, and creating a display with the nutrition information they calculated.

2. Math: The Breakfast of Champions
The second portion of the math unit will focus on the math of food labels, collecting and analyzing data, and a cost analysis – specifically, do healthier breakfast options cost more or less than unhealthy options. For this part of the unit, students will survey the school to find out who eats what for breakfast. Once they have that data, they will use it to create an analysis of the breakfast eating habits of their fellow students. The second part of this unit will be to analyze a variety of breakfast foods for their nutritional value and cost. Students will use this information to create informational pamphlets or presentations for the “Healthy Community Fair”. Throughout this unit, students will complete homework that requires them to investigate and calculate the values. Many activities came from The Math of Food and Connected Mathematics.
  • Students will be performing a nutritional analysis on a variety of breakfast cereals, breakfast bars, and traditional breakfast foods.
  • The results will be used to create pamphlets (either printed or as online presentations).
  • Students will also be creating and conducting surveys to find out the breakfast eating habits of their peers.
  • This will also involve a cost analysis of the foods – are healthy cereals more or less expensive? What is the average cost of a serving of cereal.

3. Building a Garden
During the “Building a Garden” portion, students will take a field trip to Allendale Farms, the only working farm left in Boston. Before the trip, students will formulate a list of questions for the staff, inquiring about whether the farmers use math (which they do), and where and how. Students will also have a list of questions about how the farmers plan the gardens, suggestions for planting (using appropriate math language, such as area, perimeter, ratio, percentage, etc.). At the end of the unit, students will be using the products they develop (building plans, plots, budgets) to create an actual garden. This will be done with the help of City Sprouts (http://www.citysprouts.org/), an organization that helps plan and create school gardens in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Brainstorm: What do gardens relate to healthy lifestyles? What do they give us that is healthy? (Oxygen, fresh food, healthy food, physical activity)
  • Students will design a school garden.
  • This will also require creating a budget for the garden - building materials, planting materials, veggie and fruit seeds, flowers. This will require them to use a variety of operations with fractions, percents, and decimals.
  • Students will create a variety of plots to find the optimal combination of perimeter to area, and decide how the garden will be planted. As an extension activity, students could research the yield per square foot, using the information on the plant and seed packets.

Math Learning Standards

Number Sense and Operations

Demonstrate an understanding of fractions as a ratio of whole numbers, as parts of unit wholes, as parts of a collection, and as locations on the number line.
Identify and determine common equivalent fractions, mixed numbers, decimals, and percents.
Find and position integers, fractions, mixed numbers, and decimals (both positive and negative) on the number line.
Select and use appropriate operations to solve problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and positive integer exponents with whole numbers, and with positive fractions, mixed numbers, decimals, and percents.
Apply the Order of Operations for expressions involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with grouping symbols (+, -, x, ÷).
Demonstrate an understanding of the inverse relationship of addition and subtraction, and use that understanding to simplify computation and solve problems.
Accurately and efficiently add, subtract, multiply, and divide (with double-digit divisors) whole numbers and positive decimals.
Accurately and efficiently add, subtract, multiply, and divide positive fractions and mixed numbers. Simplify fractions.
Add and subtract integers, with the exception of subtracting negative integers.
Estimate results of computations with whole numbers, and with positive fractions, mixed numbers, decimals, and percents. Describe reasonableness of estimates.

Patterns, Relations, and Algebra

Represent real situations and mathematical relationships with concrete models, tables, graphs, and rules in words and with symbols, e.g., input-output tables.
Solve linear equations using concrete models, tables, graphs, and paper-pencil methods.
Produce and interpret graphs that represent the relationship between two variables in everyday situations.
Identify and describe relationships between two variables with a constant rate of change. Contrast these with relationships where the rate of change is not constant.


Solve problems involving proportional relationships and units of measurement, e.g., same system unit conversions, scale models, maps, and speed.

Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability

Describe and compare data sets using the concepts of median, mean, mode, maximum and minimum, and range.
Construct and interpret stem-and-leaf plots, line plots, and circle graphs.

Habits of Mind

The habits of mind I want my students to develop during this math unit are as important as the math standards I will teach. Throughout our unit, we hope that students will begin to question the information presented to them, and be able to use their math and science knowledge to inform those questions. By giving them an in depth understanding of the science, nutrition, and math, we feel they will be better equipped to do this, and will be able to use the questions they form to then make more informed decisions.

I want students to learn to ask good questions that will lead us to creating informed hypothesis and hunches. Once we have these hypothesis, students will need to cooperate and collaborate with each other to share data, and also to work through their inquiry. Students will also need to be able to think fluently and flexibly. In order to do this, they will need to have a solid understanding of what it is we are exploring, and why. Lastly, students will need to persevere and have self-discipline. Many of the activities will be done in a cooperative group, so it will be important for students to be able to stay on task, and to help each other focus on the problems at hand.

Math Project Rubric



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