It's Spring Fever! Spring break is days away, it was 70 degrees in San Francisco the past 2 days and the boys are excited and anxious about many things-puberty will do that to you. Front line and center is next week's spring break followed by 4 days in the mountains of Santa Cruz. I on the other hand am anxious about the amount of money stirring in the bank accounts, the increasing "capital" without intent and that our current ratio of lending on Kiva is 9 to 4.
Begin Chapter 8. My Everyday Math curriculum states that it is time to work with rates, ratios and proportions. This has always been a great unit in my mind. It let's us play with REAL WORLD math. Now, alongside finding how many chocolate chips we need to make 3 1/2 of the recipes, we can discover more about the world, our lending styles, Kiva borrowers and develop empathy. This is what makes math real and exciting.
Getting the boys to stay focussed with spring break on the brain, I had the boys answer the following questions for me using kiva.org. As they discovered an individual we listed the country they lived in so that we could gather borrowers from across the globe, and 20 different countries.
1. Choose a borrower on Kiva.org that appeals to you. Summarize who they are, what they are asking for and how much their loan is.
2. What is the average annual salary of that country?
3. What is the currency of that country? How much does $1 USD equal?
4. How much was your initial loan on kiva.org
After working through that worksheet we circled up to share. I was excited to hear the reasons to "why" they would lend to these individuals and I wasn't disappointed. From countries of turmoil to, to people with lots of children, to the kinds of businesses and lenders previous success, the boys took the time to think intentionally about how they would spend their money. In the end the message was clear that when asked to make the right decision they can.
However, what I soon realized is that the boys of Town School were choosing to lend to men more than women. When I brought this to the attention of the boys they came up with some interesting thoughts and ideas.
"Wow! Our goal in the beginning of the year was to focus on women. Where did we go wrong?" -Jacko
"Likely we identify with men more, we are young men" -Henry
We spent some time discussing the traditional roles of men vs women and challenging ourselves to consider to identify with lenders for other reasons. I told them that I wouldn't force them to lend to any group or gender but I thought I should inform and remind them why lending to women is as important if not more. The boys understood, in fact they recalled the reasons they had decided at the beginning of the year to focus on women. When one of the boys mentioned that in the green category the ratio of men to women was male dominated, I decided to take the lesson to another level. We pulled up the Kiva Website and looked at the different categories ratios while teaching the boys how to simplify and write ratios from the data. Before using the sorting button, the boys would vote if they thought it would more more favored to men or women and then we would convert it into a simplified ratio.
Green 4:1 Clothing 1:5 Construction 2:1 Education 4:1 Food 2:7 Retail 1:3 Housing 3:4
Gender stereotypes, conversation about roles in communities, and overall interesting dialogue that had the boys really thinking, this was exciting and real. While they were able to guess correctly on most of the ratios, they were stumped on education. They see educators as mostly female and so I challenged them to spend some time in the future to consider both that and the kind of education loans that were online. Women or Men? That's the question.
Boy do you recall, "The ratio of women to men's wages in the US increased to $0.82:$1.00 in 2013." -The Wage Project?
So where will we go next with this unit of proportions, rates, ratios and percent? Converting currency, comparing and contrasting annual salary, and looking at what our class loans would look like on kiva and what percent of that nations annual salary we are "playing" with here in class on daily basis.
Wow it's an exciting time, Spring Fever and ALL. Who said you couldn't bring global to math class? Try it, I promise it's fun for both you and them.