When Real World Math Opens Up New Possibilities

This year, I was excited to have my students involved in the Teapot Box Project again. Based on the Grade 5 math expectations, my plan was to have the students create a net (using a pizza box) of a prism or a pyramid that would represent the teapot box packaging. After designing the images for the outside of the box, we would get people to vote for their favourite one, and then that group could enlarge its net to make the real package for the teapot box. With a Board focus on proportional reasoning, our vice principal‘s suggestion of this approach made a lot of sense. This was the perfect plan — except for one problem: it didn’t work as planned!

Due to some unexpected events happening the same week as our teapot box creations, the art designs for the boxes took a lot longer than expected. While all groups made the mini-nets, we then started moving past geometry in Math, and the student interest in going back, waned. I kept on waiting for the “perfect time” to do the vote and construct the large box, but that perfect time never happened. And then I started to realize that the year was quickly coming to an end, people were expecting the teapot, and I had nothing to send out. That’s when I kind of cheated. With the help of my students, I took all of the little nets and put them with the teapot into one of the big, extra teapot boxes that my students created last year.


One Of These Teapot Boxes

Then with the help of Melvina and Edna, two amazing educators that I know from Twitter, I tracked down the class in Australia that expected our teapot box, and I was ready to mail it out. My thoughts were that this project did not go as planned, but I managed to salvage things somewhat, and the teapot journey could continue. That is until real world math got in the way …

Today, I took the box to the post office to mail out. I figured that it would be expensive (it’s going from Canada to Australia), but Jocelyn‘s school is currently on Break, so there’s no rush in getting it there. As I waited at the post office desk to find out the cost of the package, I saw the employee measuring the length, width, and height of the box. Then her eyes bulged out of her head, and her words were, “Oh my goodness!” These are not words that I want to hear when waiting to pay. 🙂 She then proceeded to tell me that I only had three mailing options because of the height of the box, and the options ranged from $97-$200. Are you kidding me?!

Since there was nobody else in line, the post office employee started to play around with the measurement options to show me what the difference in a couple of centimetres would mean. Right now, the box is 25 cm high, but if I can make it 20 cm or less in height, then the cost of mailing will come down to $27. The weight of the box is light, so it’s just a matter of the dimensions. I couldn’t have planned a better real world problem that would let students explore volume, while allowing them to reuse materials (the current teapot box), and saving me a small fortune. 🙂

Thanks to our vice principal, Kristi, I already have a packing volume challenge ready for Tuesday, and now I have one more challenge — this teapot box one — for students to work on together. Yay to real world math and the excitement of new possibilities!

Other Volume Challenge For Tuesday

First Volume Challenge For Tuesday

What are some of your real world math stories? I’d love to hear about how you’ve used these opportunities to develop student learning (whether in the classroom with your kids or at home with your own children). As I was reminded of today, math is truly everywhere!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *