Monday, October 22, 2012

Making the Band -- High School Math Project

Math, Math, Baby

After a couple years of teaching systems and linear equations, I knew I needed to add some 21st Century Math Project kick. Fortunately, systems are a topic that lends itself well toward practical application. Students will make choices that will affect the launch of their album. Layered with literacy practice, students will make choices within a budget that will affect the cost and revenue of their album. The project builds on itself. After a day of decisions, the next day those decisions may pay depends on the linear equation.

Name: Making the Band
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12 (Algebra I and Algebra II math skills)
Math Concepts: Creating & Using Linear Equations, Systems of Equations, Multiple Representations
Interdisciplinary Connections: Music, Business
Teaching Duration: 3-5 Days (can be modified)
Cost: $6 for a 12 Page PDF (1 project with 3 components) 

The Product: A cost-revenue analysis and determination of a break-even point for a student-created mathematical album where the results can culminate in a class presentation. Performing their song is optional.

This is meant to be a blend of the reality television craze with systems of equations. I've never had a student not engaged in this project. Competition never has been higher. Students attempt to break-even with their record and become profitable in the least amount of time.

Students don't want choice! They want
to do exactly what I tell them to do!
This 21st Century Math Project might work as a Middle or High School math project depending on if you students have experience with modeling linear equations and solving basic systems. Here is the challenge math teachers… student choice and chance is at the fulcrum of this exercise so it is likely that no two students will have the same results. Thus, there is no answer key. The genesis of this project was from my childhood enjoyment from Choose Your Own Adventure Books.

In terms of structure, this assignment will likely be different than anything a student has done before. A teacher will likely need to be very clear with directions and possibly guide students through a hypothetical example before each part of the assignment.

Greeeaaat... another write a song assignment.
Oh wait, you want me to actually do math
and calculate stuff? Okay that might actually
help me on the ACT.
The assignment will start with students coming up with the name of a mathematical song and sketch an album cover (I give this as homework the night before). Based on the awesomeness, of their song name and album, you will give students different start-up costs. Awesome songs cost less to get started. Kind-a-sucky songs cost more.

In the “Financial Document”, students will then make a number of decisions based on descriptions and determine which are monthly and one-time start-up costs and with a little work they will have a linear cost equation.

In “Did They Pay Off”, get the dice ready because chance will play a role. Based on the decisions the day before, there is a revenue benefit but this varies greatly on luck. Wiser decisions will likely lead to higher revenues. Students will use this revenue equation to determine when they will break-even on their project.

This might push me to actually record
my album -- Math Swagg. Aight, that's
actually kinda dope. 
I have included an option “Change of Plans” assignment, because of course things don’t always turn out according to plan. Students will have a random multiplier applied to their slope and will rework their equations to find a new break-even point.

To conclude the project, I have done this differently. I have simply ended it after the assignment was complete and on another occasion I added a presentation component. Student definitely enjoyed presenting their information. If I were to do it again I would have small groups present to each other, nominate a top presenter and then have them present to the whole class. Presenting could also be offered as extra credit.

EXTENSION: Taking this another step could be to encourage your students to actually record the music (Audacity is great and free). Perhaps have a class album.  

21st Century Math Projects can be funky too. Extra funky. Many teachers have students write and perform math songs, and often this might be fun, but not very mathematically rigorous. Why not actually make them do some relevant math too?! 


  1. which expenses are expected to be monthly?