Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Mountain Lions, Cubs, Babies, Wildlife  No, these PUMAS are not members of the cat family.  PUMAS stands for Practical Uses of Math and Science and is actually the on line journal of math and science examples for pre-college education.  It is put out by NASA and has 88 different examples available.  The site has the examples that teachers can use to create better lessons.

Although there are examples for grades K through 12, the majority are for middle school and high school.   After looking at several of the lessons, I am impressed because many of these have combined science with math so neither is taught in isolation.  The material included offers so many different examples of math used in real life that it could easily enliven the lesson.

One middle school lesson has students creating a cross section from a topographic map and once the cross section is complete, students are requested to calculate the slope associated to the drawing.  The directions are clear and easy to follow.  The lesson is peppered with illustrations to show what the final product is.

Another lesson focuses on what happens when a ship carrying fuel becomes grounded during its voyage.  The ship carries fuel and the lesson has students perform the calculations converting from gallons to meters so they get an idea of how much space the fuel takes up.

The high school section has some great lessons such as one which looks at analyzing the statistical accuracy of medical tests for positive, negative, and false positives.  The lesson takes students through figuring out the probabilities for each condition and includes the appropriate graphs to illustrate the math.  The explanation is well done and is quite clear.

Another exercise looks at snowmelt and flooding which is an important topic in many areas.  It builds prior knowledge by discussing a film many students will have seen.  It requires students to calculate the volume of the snow in a basin.  It also provides the solution so the teacher knows how it was done. In addition, there are questions that are somewhat open ended as to why the flooding may have occurred at a certain time.

It looks like most of the material was created back in 1998 or 1999 but its still quite valid and useful.  Check it out and I'm sure you'll find something that you can use.