Math Challenge – ‘The Nobel Prize’ (LS-PT-259)

I am Ana Alves, teacher of Mathematics at a middle school in Braga, Portugal. I created and implemented the Learning Scenario “Math Challenge: The Nobel Prize” with my 12-year old students, in January, when they started to learn to solve linear equations in one variable.

Connecting students to real-world problems

It was my intention to support students to study real-world problems based on an exciting historical event, searched on Europeana collections.

So, I searched about ‘The Nobel Prize’, and I find so many questions and exciting categories of the Nobel Prize laureates to explore and understand (PhysicsChemistryMedicineLiteraturePeace and Economics) with my students. For example, What is the Nobel Prize? Why is it called the Nobel Prize? Do you know Alfred Nobel? Did you know he was the inventor of dynamite, which, for a while, he considered naming ‘Nobel’s Safety Powder’? Do you know why these Nobel Laureate received the Nobel Prize? 

What do students have to do?

First of all, students need to read and learn about an important and exciting subject related to the Nobel Prize. Secondly, they have to create a Math Challenge based on the text they have just read. In the end, they have to solve and share their exercises.

I think this is a great way to do an interdisciplinary lesson, to inspire students for ‘the greatest benefit to mankind’, as Alfred Nobel once said. Besides, I want my students not to use data developed by a teacher or a textbook, but real data collected by an authentic situation searched on Europeana Collections. Finally, in this scenario, I focused on the ‘Math Challenge’ on problem-solving with linear equations in one variable (7th grade). But it can be adapted to other Math themes or levels.

Students discovering Europeana Collections
Students discovering Europeana Collections

The main steps of the lesson

The main steps concerning the implementation of the learning activities were:

  • First, students had to solve several Math challenges based on problem-solving leading to linear equations in one variable;
  • Then, they practised, starting equations from the back to adapt to a new context;
  • After that, they have created their new problems based on other exciting aspects of Nobel Laureate search;
  • In the next step, they have solved the challenges of each other, giving feedback to their peers;
  • They corrected the mistakes and misunderstandings;
  • In the end, they have created QR codes to publish the results or solutions of their Math Challenges;
  • Finally, students will complete an exhibition to publish their work.

For students, the most challenging part has been finding out how to create a challenge, based on two or three numbers of data. They had to think and start one new equation from the back. Students were surprised about the Nobel Prize and the great achievements of the Laureates. They did not know enough about these famous Nobel Prize-winning scientists. So these activities were essential to bring some historical contribution to the Math class. They were also amazed by how they could create equations based on factual content.

Students have to create a challenge and solve it by a linear equation in one variable

Students, in groups, have investigated a specific category of the Nobel Prize laureates. They have learned about Alfred Nobel, Marie, and Pierre Curie. They have selected exciting aspects of their remarkable contributions. Based on this information, they have created several Math Challenges to share in class.

Students created math challenges based on the data found on Europeana
Students created math challenges based on the data found on Europeana

Math Challenge – example 1

one example of math challenge created during the lesson
one example of math challenge created during the lesson

Math Challenge – example 2

 one example of math challenge created during the lesson
one example of math challenge created during the lesson

Exhibition – Publishing their Math Challenges

This exhibition will be completed with more Math Challenges during this school year.

Exhibition created by students
Exhibition created by students

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

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The featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana Collections and belongs to the public domain.

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