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The NASCAR Project by Master Teacher Christa Lemily

March 10, 2014

Master Teacher Christa Lemily teaches Grade 8 Math at South Warren Middle School in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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I developed the NASCAR Project as a result of attending a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) conference at the University of Kentucky. I was participating in a breakout session that discussed the engineering process and how you could bring the same principles into other types of science.

The engineering process includes:

1st – Identify the problem

2nd – Pick out relevant information to help you solve the problem (Research and Investigate)

3rd – Represent your solution with a model (use physical models or technology)

4th – Test your model and engage in argument

An employee from the Louisville Science museum mentioned making an investigation activity for kids at the museum using NASCAR as the theme. That was all it took for my mind to begin racing through how I could bring the same type of concept to my classroom. For the entire 2 ½ hours I drove to get home from the conference I planned and designed the project. I happen to know a race-car driver, Dillon Oliver, who I would lean on heavily for wisdom and guidance as I planned this lesson. (What I thought would work mathematically did not always work out realistically.) I wanted a real world project that asked students to take a large amount of information and decide which parts are most important to solve the problem. Dillon helped me give students realistic information about the auto-racing world. His help enabled me to add real-life research to the technical math of the project. In the end, the project applies to the concepts of equations, ratios, and percents.

In regards to the Common Core, I really focused on making connections to several standards of practice with these lessons. These lessons make connections from 7th grade ratios / proportions and equations used in everyday life to 8th grade solving complex equations (7.PRA.3, 7.EE.B.3, and 8.EE.C.7b).  More than the standards, the style of lesson brings in several mathematical practices by using an engineering-based problem-solving approach that will connect well with the new science standards next year.  Students will be required to make sense of the problem and the abundance of information about the problem (math practice 1).  Students will use tools to strategically to model the real world situation in order to begin working towards a viable solution (math practices 4 and 5).  It was a fun way for students to connect concepts in science – both from content and process – to concepts in math.

When Mr. Oliver visited my class they only had one hour of his time and really, they could have spent two or three hours listening to him, asking questions, and looking at all his really cool racing gear! What made the project even more exciting was that I teamed up with our science teacher who was teaching distance, speed, time, and velocity to combine our lessons into one theme – NASCAR racing. Students were working with NASCAR in both science and math, which really helped them when it came to creating the project. Dillion Oliver is coming back to visit my students in April and next time, he’s bringing the car!!!!

Check out the entire NASCAR Project – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 – on CC.BetterLesson.

Start your math engines!

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