Application-Based Lessons

Thank you for joining me this month to discuss the three different types of math lessons. I'm so excited to share with you another favorite- the application-based lesson! This lesson takes both conceptual and procedural lessons and helps students make connections to the real world. If you haven't checked out the other blog posts, you can head over here to check them out:


"Why do I need to learn this?" "When will I ever use this?" These are all valid questions when students are working in math class, especially when they are answering random questions about distance or travel times. As educators, we have to provide real opportunities for students to see why the math they are doing matters.


First, let's get to the aim of an application-based lesson: problem solving. It's true that some math concepts won't be used for every aspect of life. I can't remember the last time I needed to know the types of triangles. However, while working on a concept, I can use the power of strategic thinking and problem solving to see how mathematics is connected. I can help my students think about mathematics as a way to see the world and the patterns that exist in it. Providing them with authentic, meaningful tasks is just the way to help them make that connection!


In a true application-based lesson, students are using their understanding from the conceptual lessons to apply it to a situation. Students then have to use their procedural understanding to carry out the task. This unique situation presents two challenges:

  1. Students have to fully understand the concept. They have to process the task and know what is being required of them.

  2. Students have to be proficient in the procedures to actually solve the problem. If they are still working through the steps in a procedure, they can get lost in the process.

A true application-based task provides students with opportunities to work through both of these challenges. They have to be given a task that allows them to connect their previous lessons and they have to be given the correct scaffolding to actually do the math required.

Let's take this scenario:


You have been asked to organize the school field trip to the museum. Here are the class lists. How many buses are needed for the trip?


Students have to consider which operation to use and carry out the task. But a true application-based lesson carries the task further with multiple steps.


The school can use two different sized buses. One bus holds 10 students and the other holds 100 students. What combinations of buses would seat all the students? If the 10-person bus costs $30 and the 100-person bus costs $150, which bus combination is the best deal?


Now, we are taking it to the next level! Students have a problem that has multiple answers and will need to use their skills to consider all the options.


In both situations, I would provide students with manipulatives and allow them to process through everything that they have done to this point. I would probably even pull a small group or two and do some reteaching of concepts. That is why a true application-based lesson should have multiple steps and tasks to allow students to work through at different paces. Choosing a rich task will be vital to help students have multiple entry points.


As part of my membership program this is open until July 27, 2020, you can access my performance tasks. In the Beyond the Textbook membership, one resource will be emailed to you directly each month. These tasks are only available through my membership and address multiple grade levels and multiple standards. There are currently 5 different performance tasks that will challenge students K-6. You can find out more about the membership options by clicking below.


In the meantime, check out this FREE sample below that models this task I described. You can also find out more about the tasks by checking out the related video in my video library.

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