Real-World Math from KQED's The Lowdown


Ever wonder why stores offer discounts or how the lottery works? Math concepts like percentages, probability, and statistics have a huge impact on the world around us! Use these videos, graphics, and lesson plans to explore math in new, inventive ways. Discover how math helps explain current issues like the gender-wage gap, credit card debt, rising obesity rates, and more.

  • The Lowdown | Percents Defined

    Learn how to calculate percent as a rate per 100 in this video from KQED. In the accompanying classroom activity, students model percent with a 10 x 10 grid. After watching the video, they create a design or picture on a 10 x 10 grid, using a specified percentage of particular colors. They then consider the percentage of each color in the designs of the class as a whole. To get the most out of the lesson, students should be comfortable multiplying a whole number by a fraction with a denominator of 100.

    Grades: 6
  • The Lowdown | Defining and Calculating Percents

    Explore methods for calculating and comparing discounts in this video from KQED. In the accompanying classroom activity, students develop different strategies for calculating and comparing discounts, including percent off a price, percent of a price, and dollars off a price. They compare their strategies with those demonstrated in the video. Then, they write and solve story problems involving comparing percent off and dollars off a price. To get the most out of the lesson, students should be familiar with percent as a rate per 100 and comfortable calculating percent of a dollar amount (e.g., 80% of $80, 1% of $130).

    Grades: 6-7
  • The Lowdown | Percents Combined: Proportional Relationships with Multistep Ratio and Percent Problems

    Learn how to calculate sale price when combining two “percent-off” discounts in this video from KQED. In the accompanying classroom activity, students develop and share a variety of strategies, including modeling with a 10 x 10 grid to determine a total discount and sale price when two percent-off discounts are combined. They compare their strategies with the approach demonstrated in a video. To get the most out of the activity, students should be comfortable calculating discount as a percent off a dollar amount (e.g., 20% off an item priced at $50) and familiar with the concept of a ratio.

    Grades: 5-13+
  • The Lowdown | The Math of Trash: Percents and Proportions

    Discover how percents and proportions help explain issues like climate change, composting, and zero waste in this video from KQED. In the accompanying classroom activity, students estimate the percentage of various types of trash that they generate (e.g., paper, plastic) and calculate the pounds of each based on the United States daily average of 7 pounds per person. They display these figures in a pie chart and consider how the chart would change if they generated less trash. To get the most from this lesson, students should have some prior experience calculating percentages.

    Grades: 6
  • The Lowdown | The Math of Credit Cards

    Explore how credit cards work in this video from KQED. In particular, you’ll discover the impact and high cost of outstanding balances when borrowing money using credit cards. In the accompanying classroom activity, students discuss the key concepts presented in the video, including the relationship between lines of credit, debt, spending, and interest charges. They then learn to calculate simple interest. This resource is part of the Math at the Core: Middle School Collection.

    Grades: 6-7
  • The Lowdown | Understanding Inflation: A Stop Motion Explainer, Parts 1 and 2

    Explore a real-life application of percentage—the math behind rates of inflation—in two animated videos about inflation from KQED. The first video provides an overview of inflation; the second explains the role of inflation in a healthy economy. In the accompanying classroom activity, students find the price of a given item (e.g., a pair of jeans) this year, last year, 50 years ago, and 100 years ago and compare percentage price increase with total rate of inflation over each time period. To get the most from this lesson, students should be comfortable finding percentage increase and interpreting percentages greater than 100. This resource is part of the Math at the Core: Middle School Collection.

    Grades: 6
  • Real-World Proportional Relationships: Gender Wage Gap

    Using this infographic, learn how wage equity today compares with data from 50 years ago, at the dawn of the equal pay movement. The accompanying classroom activity invites students to explore the change in the gender wage gap from 1965 to 2010. First, students will learn how the wage gap can be calculated from different median salaries for men and women. Then, students will consider the real monetary impact of increasing equity in wages—and will look to the graph for clues about when the wage gap will be eliminated, if at all. This resource is part of the Math at the Core: Middle School Collection.

    Grades: 6-7
  • The Lowdown | Your Odds of Winning Powerball: Probabilities of Compound Events Using Visuals

    In this video, explore the odds of winning the Powerball lottery and learn what few people realize about their chances of winning: they are miniscule. In the accompanying classroom activity, students create simple lottery models to help them understand the probability of compound events. Though the probability of success at these experiments is better than that of Powerball, students will quickly see that the odds of winning any lottery-type game are seldom in their favor. This resource is part of the Math at the Core: Middle School Collection.

    Grades: 7
  • The Lowdown | San Francisco Affordable Housing Gap

    Explore the math of housing affordability on a minimum wage salary in the expensive city of San Francisco in this interactive from KQED. In the accompanying classroom activity, students investigate housing affordability locally. They determine monthly salary of a minimum wage worker, and then find how many minimum wage salaries would be needed to pay for an inexpensive 2-bedroom apartment, assuming 30% of wages go to rent. Next, students use the interactive. To get the most from this lesson, students should have some prior experience calculating percentages, given a part and a whole. This resource is part of the Math at the Core: Middle School Collection.

    Grades: 6-7
  • The Lowdown | Exploring Changing Obesity Rates Through Ratios and Graphs

    In these KQED Lowdown infographics, explore how adult obesity rates in the United States, as measured by body mass index (BMI), have dramatically changed in the past half-century. A circular graph and a pictograph depict data by decade, indicating which parts of the population were not overweight, overweight, obese, and extremely obese according to BMI. In the accompanying classroom activity, students develop an understanding of the ratios and proportional relationships by examining numerical data found in the graphs and creating their own bar graphs. This resource is part of the Math at the Core: Middle School Collection.

     

    Grades: 6
  • The Lowdown | Examining California's Prison System: Real-World Ratio

    In this infographic from KQED, examine age, gender, and race in California’s prison population to note the inconsistencies between who is in the general population and who is serving time behind bars. In the accompanying classroom activity, students examine the demographics of California’s prison population. After learning how to find a part given the whole and the percent, students find the size of different populations in the prison system. Students then analyze the data and make recommendations for identifying the communities at which they think crime-prevention efforts should be targeted. This resource is part of the Math at the Core: Middle School Collection.

    Grades: 6