Groveport Middle School, Groveport, Ohio

Subject: Mathematics

Grade: 7

"This is by far the best project I have done in the classroom. I plan to make it a part of my yearly curriculum."

Working in teams, the advanced students covered seven math categories-whole numbers, decimals, fractions, measurement, geometry, graphs, and percents. Each team selected a theme and pattern for its game, began construction, and, after instruction in photography, went out into the community to find photographic subjects that would lend themselves to consumer math problems. They then wrote and solved math problems related to the photos. When the games were completed, the advanced students demonstrated how the games were played for the developmental students, who had already studied the concepts in class. The developmental students became so enthusiastic as a result of the games that they went on to write and solve their own math problems on the basis of newspaper photos and items.

Barrett found that while the Photo Math games were "designed to be used by slow learners, they were also found exciting by all of my other students." In fact, since most of the games require problems of varying difficulty to be solved before players can advance on the game board, she estimates that they would be useful from about fourth grade up. Students get caught up in the games, and the use of photographs makes the situations dealt with-such as figuring the tip on a meal check-more realistic than those usually described in textbook word problems. The students also found, notes the teacher, that math could be fun rather than tedious or frightening.

- Students were given a pre-survey on their attitudes toward past math programs, their consumer math knowledge, and their overall math ability. They discussed the Photo Math project in general and were given photographic tips by the school principal, who is also an amateur photographer.
- The students divided into seven groups and each group took on one of the seven math categories to be demonstrated (whole numbers, decimals, fractions, measurement, geometry, graphs, and percents). Each team settled on a basic theme and playing pattern for its game and began construction of the game board, playing pieces, and box. The completed games would include a decorated container, game board, playing pieces, rules, photos, math problems, and an answer key.
- Teams continued game construction and decided who would go to which location to take the pictures needed. Each student's goal was to produce 12 usable photos, and, over the next two weeks, they fanned out to focus on restaurant menus, grocery items, store signs, billboards, buildings, animals, roadside scenery, and other subjects. The photography was done on their own time.
- After the film had been professionally developed and prints returned, the students wrote assessments of what they had done right and wrong in taking the photos.
- At this point, the students began writing and solving math problems about their photos. When this was done, the teacher made a final check to see that the games were complete. Each team presented its game.
- After helping the developmental students learn how to play the games, the advanced students also made formal presentations about their games to the local school board and to the parent-teacher organization.

The developmental students' portion of the project occurred over 12 class periods. Their activities included the following:

- These students were also given a pre-survey on their attitudes about math and their general knowledge of consumer math and in addition were pre-tested on percents.
- The teacher then taught a unit on changing a percent to a decimal and back to a percent; changing a percent to a fraction; solving problems when the percent was known; and solving problems when the percent was not known.
- Five days into this unit, students began spending the first part of class reviewing percents and playing the advanced students' games for the remainder of the period. Several advanced students visited the class to explain the games.
- Students were given a post-test on percents and a post-survey on their opinions about the games.
- Students found examples of percents in newspapers, discussed them, cut them out, and wrote their own math problems about them. They also looked for photos in newspapers and made up problems and found answers, just as the advanced students had done.

Each advanced student used a camera from home. Materials required for game construction included file cards, envelopes, glue, staples, construction paper, markers, poster board, game pieces, dice, spinners, portfolios and boxes, and a laminating machine.

Further, Barrett says, they developed "tremendous organizational skills" and ability to work cooperatively during the process of developing games, taking photos, writing problems, and putting all the required elements together. Communication skills also came into play as a result of the oral presentations students made about their games and the thank-you letters they wrote to resource people. And, finally, they were proud of the help they were able to give the developmental students and had more understanding of these students' difficulties.

Evaluation of the developmental students initially showed that they could not work with percentages at all and that they were bored and frustrated with math in general. The game project "sparked their interest from the very first day," says Barrett, and they worked hard to learn the skills necessary to play the games. By the end of the project, these students showed a nearly 70 percent improvement in percent skills. Attendance also increased significantly on game days, states Barrett, and some students even asked if they could make their own games for extra credit. The students became more aware that such basic math skills are necessary for everyday life and developed a more positive attitude.

Barrett points out that Photo-Math games can be created and used
by most ability groups, since her advanced students enjoyed playing
the games and the developmental students became interested in
making them-even though the project was designed the other way
around. In addition, other subject areas could use the photo games
with equal success. She suggests that social studies teachers
could have students take or copy photos of famous people, buildings,
or events and develop accompanying questions, while science students
could photograph chemical reactions, plants, or insects.