Getting to know Franklin County by using algebra

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New Tech at Gereau’s Pre-Advanced Placement Algebra 1 students give a presentation on how they used representations of linear functions to promote Franklin County.

New Tech at Gereau eighth grade students don’t just learn about algebra, they apply it in unique and practical ways.

Through hands-on, project-based learning, students recently took what they learned about calculating slope, writing linear equations and using the Pythagorean theorem to learn about and promote Franklin County. The students were divided into five groups with each taking on the role of being a tour bus company.

The project scenario was for each group’s tour bus company to create an engaging, efficient tour showcasing Franklin County’s assets. Of the five companies, two focused on nature, one on moonshine heritage and one on restaurants. The fifth company staged a tour catered to teens.

Jessica Mullins facilitated the pre-advanced placement algebra I course’s project to not only help students learn about algebra, but to also work on communication skills through writing and public speaking.

New Tech’s community projects make learning practical while engaging and serving the community.

“This was our first authentic community-based project,” Mullins said.

New Tech’s other courses, E.D.I.T. (English and Digital Input Technologies) and Sci-For (physical science and forensic science), also have experience with community-based projects.

The students’ written performance task was to create a brochure, website or other promotional document explaining their bus tour, including the theme, how the tour showcases the community’s assets and what attractions tourists would experience. Mullins said she was impressed that in addition to the groups’ presentations, each group developed a website, a skill they recently learned in another New Tech class.

Once the groups created their theme, designed their bus and used Google Maps and Franklin County Parks and Recreation’s website to plan their tour, they were to plot points on the FC coordinate plane map. Students then had to calculate the slope to and from each stop, write a linear equation to represent each transition on their tour and use the Pythagorean theorem to find the perimeter of their tour.

The culminating product was revealed Nov. 19 when students presented the design of a new bus tour that showcased the community’s assets. The presentation included a 2D map of their tour route on graph paper. The groups were evaluated by a panel of community members from various fields.

New Tech student, Laila Beard, said the exercise helped her realize there are practical uses for the material.

“Usually in math class you’re sitting and thinking, ‘how will this relate to my life later on,’ but doing this project I realized that slope and linear equations can be used when planning travel routes and other things,” Beard said. “I learned a lot about Franklin County because originally, I did not think there was much here to do, but then when we started doing the project, I learned we have a lot of cool stuff, like the rare plants on Bald Knob and the public access at Smith Mountain Lake where you can swim and kayak.”

To plan their tours, students took advantage of the information on Franklin County’s tourism website. They also called upon members of Franklin County Parks and Recreation since they are familiar with what there is to do in the county, especially in the outdoors.

Marcia Cramblitt, a parks and recreation manager, had a work session with the class to help students determine a theme for their tour bus and who their target audience was. They also worked with maps and figured out places to visit, as well as the travel times were and what activities to do.

“They did a really good job of finding out what resources our county has,” Cramblitt said.

Mullins was pleased with how the project turned out and that “students could experience applying algebra to real-world scenarios.”

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