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posted: Wed, Jan 28th, 2015
Megha Thyagarajan works on some calculations for the project

Learning to work on a budget 

Sixth-graders in Rebecca Kreider’s Dynamic Math classes recently put their creativity, technology skills, and math skills to use by planning a birthday party on a limited budget.

Dynamic Math gives students a taste of the real world and shows them how math skills are applied in everyday life. In this project, students worked in teams of four and were tasked with developing a party for 10 of their friends using a mythical $300. Everything needed to be correctly budgeted and planned using actual prices, including the cost of activities, party favors, food, etc. 

The project pulled in so many math functions and skills including working with fractions, working with decimals, percentages, estimating, rounding, and graphing. But here's the kicker: to encourage creativity and inspire students to get the most for their mythical money, the team voted to have the best party plan wins a prize.

There were a variety of party themes, from Minecraft parties to spa parties. And the teams presented to their class in fun ways to try to win the votes of classmates.

“This project is something the students can all relate to,” said Ms. Kreider. “It makes math less abstract. It’s not just a piece of paper with math problems on decimals and fractions. The kids become invested in the projected. They feel responsible and accountable to their other teammates and want to make sure everything they do is right.”

Students used laptops to research the cost of items and find the best deals. For many, seeing the price of typical party fare was an eye-opening experience. And then there was this little thing called sales tax. (The students were shocked when they calculated the sales tax on a new car. Welcome to the rest of your life, kids.)

The documents that the students put together as part of the assignment were done mostly on Google Apps. This web-based collection of applications – used often throughout the district – makes collaborating on reports, spreadsheets, and presentations incredibly easy and is something that students can access at home as well.

Lily Walsh graphs expenses

Ryan Nguyen and Andres Cruz took first place in the Science Olympiad held at NJIT

Taking on the state at the Science Olympiad 

The Science Olympiad/Technology Student Association (TSA) club finished in 8th place in this year's Science Olympiad Northern New Jersey Regional Tournament. For such a good placing the team earned an invitation to the state tournament, which will be held on March 10 at Middlesex County College in Edison.

The highlight of the competition was the 1st place award for Ryan Nguyen and Andres Cruz. The seventh-graders entered the elastic launched glider event and were tasked with creating a plane that would stay in the air for as long as possible.

Configured to fly in a circle, the balsa wood plane that the two built was shot out of essentially a rubber sling shot and stayed aloft for 12 seconds, easily besting the competition. In their test flights, Ryan and Andres had their plane stay in the air for as long as 15 seconds.

"It's one of those things that just draws you into it," Andres said about the model building and experimentation. "I can get lost in it. Science is interesting and fun to me."

Ryan and Andres were inspired for the glider design from an airplane model kit that Ryan received as a gift. 

Last year, Ryan's brother John competed in the same event in the national TSA competition in June and finished in second place.

Another notable design was done by eighth-graders Esteban Cambronero and Naveen Kamath for the wheeled vehicle contest. The car, powered by elastic bands according to the category rules, was made from wood with rubber wrapped CDs for wheels.

The goal of the event was to build a vehicle that would get as close to a target as possible while avoiding an obstacle placed directly in its path.

During their run, Esteban and Naveen’s car appeared to be on a collision course for the obstacle – a gallon paint can – but the car continued turning as designed and narrowly avoided impact.

Though the team finished in 7th place out of 20, the vehicle had an innovative braking mechanism made from a wing nut and bolt.

Esteban and Naveen plan on refining their vehicle and the braking mechanism in preparation for the state tournament in March.

Teacher Beth Cohen is the club’s advisor.

Naveen Kamath and Esteban Cambronero with their innovative car
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Mount Olive Middle School
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