Big Idea: Math

Nov 25, 2018

Math SymbolsMath. For some, the word brings dread, for others excitement. There is not a more polarizing subject area in schools or one that has as much power in deciding student’s destiny. Many students decide early on that they cannot “do” math, or they do not see the value of math and give up, closing off a wealth of possibilities. How do we make math more accessible and meaningful to everyone? How do we help students understand the power, beautify and utility of math and mathematical thinking? How do we show the importance of math across all subject areas and get students involved in solving real-life problems using math?

Math is a fundamental Big Idea because it has the power to shape our destinies in personal ways such as finances and shared ways such as solving societal problems and inventing new products. The world needs mathematicians. More importantly, the world needs more people who understand the basics of math and mathematical thinking to make informed decisions.

We encourage you to explore how you can make math meaningful inside and outside of schools and across all curriculum areas to keep doors open (or re-open them) for all learners.


Big Idea: Math
Essential Question: How can we keep the doors open, or re-open them for learners?
Challenge: Make math meaningful!

Sample Guiding Questions

These are only example questions we encourage you to ask as many personal and contextual questions as possible.

  1. What is math?
  2. Why is math important?
  3. Why do some people struggle with math?
  4. Why do I need to learn math?
  5. When will I ever use math outside of school?
  6. What is mathematical thinking?
  7. Why is math boring?
  8. Why is math exciting?
  9. What is the history of math?
  10. Is math the same all over the world?
  11. What does math have to do with music, art, science, history, language, etc.?
  12. Is there a better way to learn math?
  13. How is math used to make people’s lives better?
  14. What are the different kinds of math?
  15. How much math do I really need to know?
  16. What does math have to do with computers, engineering, sports, etc.?
  17. Etc.

*Once you brainstorm all of the questions organize and prioritize them.


Guiding Activities and Resources
These are only a set of example activities and resources and the learners will need to evaluate the quality of the content. They are not verified or necessarily supported, just examples. The ones that you choose should be in direct relationship to your specific guiding questions and context. Activities and resources for adults, adolescents, and younger children will be different. The goal is to develop solutions that mean something in your community and are sustainable.

Example Activities

  1. Define the terms of the challenge (math, something and better)
  2. Explore the history of math around the world
  3. Write an essay about your experience with math.
  4. Take an area of interest and learn how math is involved (eg sports, music, skateboarding, art, etc)
  5. Keep a math diary and track all of your encounters with math during the day.
  6. Explore Ted talks on Math
  7. Read a Math book
  8. Play math games
  9. Talk with community members in different occupations and learn how they use math
  10. Describe your classroom and school using math
  11. Describe your relationships using math
  12. Describe your community using math
  13. Learn how math is used to solve real problems in your community and beyond
  14. Etc.

Example Resources

  1. A collection of TED Talks (and more) on the topic of math.
  2. 10 Books to Spark a Love of Math in Kids of All Ages
  3. Instill a Love of Math
  4. Mathalicious
  5. Connecting to Math in Real Life
  6. 6 Everyday Examples of Math in the Real World
  7. Math in real Life
  8. Integrating Math Across the Curriculum Collection
  9. Etc.


Using the research findings from your Investigations develop a synthesis that demonstrates a clear understanding of the challenge. For help with creating a synthesis explore this resource.

Solution Prototypes – Using your research synthesis create multiple ideas for solutions and review each one to make sure your research supports it. Share the prototypes with various stakeholders and get feedback.

Solution – with the feedback from the stakeholders develop one solution that has the most potential for success.


Implement – Develop a plan to implement the solution with the stakeholders and collect data about the impact.

Evaluate – Using quantitative and qualitative measures determine if the solution is valid and what can be improved.


Throughout the experience take time to document the events and reflect on what is happening to build on prior knowledge and identify future questions.

Share what you learned with your local community and the world. Use #CBLWorld on social media.