My experience is primarily working in high-need schools where student engagement and literacy are paramount. To compensate, I have worked to create math projects and activities that are both mathematically rigorous and engaging the students. In my experience, I often felt the concepts were lost when I taught other activities that were meant to engage. Google searching didn't unearth much that worked for me. At the forefront of my work is rigor that prepares students for standardized tests through Activities with High Student Interest.
I have experience facilitating professional development and have led sessions for groups with sizes ranging from 4 to 200 from Brooklyn to Hong Kong. If you would like me to help your school district or department, we can make something happen. I'm happy to send my resume or examples of my previous work. All the proceeds go directly to students programs for my school.
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I believe that three key elements need to be in place for a strong math project or lesson. Real World Authenticity, Mathematical Rigor and 21st Century Swagg. A hearty balance of these three things need to be in place to bring the learning to the next level. A traditional classroom would fall into the Mathematical Rigor category, but lacks Real World Relevancy or 21st Century Swagg.
Having students design a car on a computer, without a solid math foundation (or for an appropriate grade level) is a prime example of Real World Authenticity absent Mathematical Rigor or 21st Century Swagg.
A lack of 21st Century Swagg may be the product of using a ditto from 1980 or a hand written assignment. Presentation matters. The look of the assignment matters. Humor, if possible, matters. I can't count how many problems I use from textbooks that start with "In 1991". Most of my students this year were born in 1998. While what happened in 1991 may be important, there are also important things that happened in 2011 that textbook companies just can't keep up with.
Of course there is not necessarily an Authentic Real World project for each math topic you teach. That doesn't mean it's impossible to make one. You just may need to up the dosage of Mathematical Rigor or 21st Century Swagg. My popular CSI projects are examples of this. With the engaging CSI puzzle solving framework (extra 21st Century Swagg) and Mathematical Rigor, a project for any topic is possible. Of course there are Authentic Real World problems in these puzzles, but perhaps nothing meaty enough to expand to a full-blown project.
I would argue you can't do without any of these ideas. Many might say you can cut out the 21st Century Swagg. Perhaps that's possible, but if student interest isn't there, student engagement may not be.
Real World Authenticity -- Mathematical Rigor -- 21st Century Swagg. Your new best friend.