Math Coming Alive: Real-Life Number Lines

By Colleen Zeiss

Do you ever feel like life is a series of negative and positive integers? Mrs. Gangl’s seventh-grade math students know what I mean…

I could tell something amazing was happening in the seventh grade when I noticed Mrs. Gangl’s math students carrying  their beautiful posters with pictures of their families’ most memorable moments. 

At first glance, I assumed it was a typical timeline with pictures of their families. However, they explained to me that they needed to start at their birth year as “0” on the timeline, and then work backwards (0, -1, -2, etc.) and then forward (0, 1, 2, etc.) and document their families’ most important milestones within the real-life number line. 

In fact, Mrs. Gangl provided these specific guidelines for the assignment: “Create a real-life scenario representing positive and negative integers through life events that happened before or after you were born.  This will take place on a number line consisting of the numbers -10 to 10.  Lastly, come up with 3 word problems involving adding or subtracting integers to represent your life events.”

I heard about their stories and enjoyed their family photos in English class, in the hallways, at break, and in carline. It was a great way to get to know the kids, and bonus – they were talking about math outside of math class! 

A special thanks to Mrs. Gangl for “awakening the joy of learning” in her students through these types of creative projects. 

Who knew number lines could be so fun? 

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