Use the news in math class – MEDIA LITERACY
Mathematics is an integral part of our everyday life. We draw on math ideas from a wide variety of activities including the arts, sports, health, history, and many other areas.
There are news articles every day that can serve as a stimulus for developing mathematical understanding.
Articles on architecture or art can be a starting point for exploring geometry. Health articles can lead to discussions about disease rates and how they are expressed. Sports news can lead to measurement research, such as the pace length of an Olympic sprinter.
Large numbers are common on the news – for example, the number of people watching a program – and students need to be experienced using numbers that they typically encounter. Statistical information is presented daily in different contexts and can serve as a stepping stone for exploring many situations.
Ways To Use The Messages In Your Math Class
1. Visit Gapminder to use statistics to investigate a problem in the news. Gapminder has a number of interactive data visualization tools and a number of downloadable datasets. Using a social theme as a starting point, students can explore real-world data and explore connections between different data from a variety of countries. Dollar Street is a collection of photographs sorted by income and various items such as beds, doors, and cooking utensils. Photographs may not seem like math, but when combined with other data, they become a powerful way of visualizing the world. There is currently no data from Australia but the page gives you information on how you can make a contribution.
2. Conduct a news poll. Watch TV news every day for a week. Record the number of stories using numbers, percentages, graphs, or charts as evidence. Categorize these stories (e.g. politics, sports, health, etc.) and display the results as bar or pie charts. Are there any differences between the news channels? In which categories is numerical information most used? What if you listen to the radio news: how is it different from TV news? These activities use the news as a data source as well as taking numbers into account in the news.
3. Check out fact checking websites like RMIT ABC Fact Check or websites like Science Daily and Numeracy in the News. How much information do they give about the stories they contain? Do you describe your methodology? Do they support the claims by providing links to research reports or other sources? What math and statistics do they use? These activities aim to encourage a questioning attitude so that students can critically assess the quality of the original news AND the fact check.
4. Explore Graph of the Day websites like ABC Chart of the Day or the New York Times. Websites that suggest that graphics can be misleading are Top Drawer or Statistics How To, or this ABC article on graphic tricks and manipulation. Ask students to use the data they have collected about their class to create misleading graphs and explain why the graph is misleading.
5. There are several general websites that focus on math in the news. Plus magazine is one such site that has a section on the news. Ask students to find a news article that interests them and prepare a “data talk” that turns a visual into a narrative.
Find more classroom activities and teacher resources to help you get the most out of our media literacy resources.
Adjunct Associate Professor Rosemary Callingham is a math teacher at the University of Tasmania. She has an extensive background in math education in Australia at the school, systems and tertiary levels, including developing and implementing math curriculum, large-scale tests and teacher training. In 2020, she became a member of the Order of Australia for Merit in Teaching Mathematics.
Professor Emerita Jane Watson spent 48 years at the University of Tasmania as a tertiary mathematics tutor, teacher educator and math education researcher. Her main research area has been statistics teaching and she has written 50 articles for teachers on various subjects for the classroom including lbw decisions in cricket, fishy statistics, division by zero, estimating the height of a tree and what is typical of the Melbourne Cup. She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.