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GHS classes to learn 'math in the real world' with grant from Toshiba

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"How am I ever going to use this?" Ah, yes, it's every high school teacher's favorite question.

One Greencastle High School teacher will have a new answer to the inquiry beginning in August. She will be able to say something like: "As soon as we get outside."

Through a grant the Toshiba America Foundation, math teacher Jana Boggess will begin incorporating GPS units into her geometry classes in the fall, a program she calls "Math in the Real World."

"We just want to get the kids outside and get them using technology," Boggess said. "It's just something different. They get sick of listening to us talk all the time."

The $4,429 grant will be used to purchase at least 30 GPS units. Boggess plans to use them to teach the students about satellites systems, how waypoints (latitude and longitude) are tracked and exactly how these things relate to what the students learn in the classroom.

"That's the most common question I get asked: 'When am I ever going to use this?'" Boggess said. "This is a way to say, here it is."

Plans include constructing a circle with the students' bodies using waypoints as well as using the waypoints to measure diameter, radius, arcs and secants.

In getting out of the classroom, the lessons can even be as simple as why it is important to remember labels and units in math problems. The students will be asked to measure 5 feet and then 5 yards and notice the difference, "so they can see why we're always stressing how important units are."

Boggess attended a weeklong workshop at DePauw University and learned about incorporating Google Earth and GPS units into the classroom. However, she gives credit to former principal Randy Corn, who encouraged the pursuit of the grant, and to alternative school instructor Doug Hudson, who wrote the grant.

"It would not have gotten done without Doug Hudson," Boggess said.

She sees potential for the units well beyond geometry classes. She would eventually like to carry the program into her other math classes, and possibly even into the science department.

Even in her geometry classes, she hopes the students find some science lessons, such as finding shape patterns in nature and tracking how things change over time.

"It takes quite a bit of effort to set things up in Google Earth, but it's worth it," Boggess said.

Best of all, even with the program not yet in the classroom, it already has some current geometry students excited.

"That's what we want," Boggess said. "A couple of my geometry students are actually upset because they're taking geometry right now and can't take part."

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