“Ms. Forrest, what do systems of equations have to do with anything outside of our math class?” “When will I ever use this math?”. These are not uncommon questions in a middle school class. My typical response is, “Well students I am glad you asked!” To make our most recent chapter have meaning to our 8th graders I brought in something I know they like. It is not an unusual sight to see students show up to school with Starbucks cups and treats in the morning or walk into any teacher’s classroom and you are likely to find some coffee, usually a venti! So we combined our study of systems of linear equations and coffee to get some answers!
After our chapter on systems of linear equations we were curious to see if it would be better to purchase a Keurig machine and make your own coffee at home or stick with the convenience of a Starbucks trip. We took the real life Starbucks order of some of our middle school teachers and the cost of purchasing supplies at a grocery store to make that drink with a Keurig machine and started collecting data. Students calculated the cost of tax on the items and the machine and came up with a cost equation for both Starbucks and Keurig per cup of coffee. They tracked these relationships of a cup of coffee a day on a graph over the span of three years. Our results were confirmed using substitution and elimination.
Our data overwhelmingly showed that if we are looking at our coffee addiction from a financial standpoint Keurig is the way to go after about 3 months. However, most students agreed they love the menu options and convenience of a Starbucks coffee! We were able to take this strategy and see how it applies to business in the real world and comparison of cost effectiveness. Math really is EVERYWHERE!
Caitlyn Forrest, Middle School Math