Apply project-based learning principles to successfully engage students in your Algebra I classroom.

Education in the United States is shifting, as the Department of Education, school districts, and educators attempt to plan the next steps toward improving the quality of how children learn. Many educators are exploring student-focused, personalized pedagogy – and at the center of this movement lies project-based learning, or PBL.

During project-based learning, students develop solutions for a problem by taking steps that apply concepts relevant to curriculum. Proponents hail project-based learning as an alternative teaching method that promotes student engagement, critical-thinking skills, collaboration, and confidence. When implemented in an Algebra I classroom, project-based learning will refine the skills necessary for students to succeed in real-world career situations. Here are some sample project-based learning activities you can use with your Algebra I students.

1. Olympic Algebra

Algebra IThrouhgh its NRICH program, the University of Cambridge promotes the use of math through providing relevant project-based learning activities. In its “Charting Success” outline, the university provides sports data shown through graphs, charts, and diagrams. Students must answer questions regarding different sporting events, such as Roger Federer’s game trends, football player positions, and Olympic performance.

2. Seeing the Sequence

Within this project-based learning exercise from, students will consider the patterns found in potential real-life events and use algebra to determine the sequence. Referencing circumstances that can occur through trends in weather, health, and population growth, the assignment asks students to distinguish between arithmetic and geometric sequences, identify missing values, and analyze growth.

3. Bee-ing Great in Algebra

Algebra IIn this activity from Teach 21, project-based learning focuses on using algebra for business relocation, yet also brings attention to bee populations, which have been threatened over the last few years. This hypothetical scenario allows students to spearhead the effort by using data and graphs to present findings regarding the locations that will best suit company needs.

4. Owl Box Project

Through this activity, completed by the York School in April 2014, students will use algebra concepts to create a home for owls. Students must decide upon the appropriate size of the box, calculate all measurements of every piece, and height of the post on which it will sit. To maximize community involvement, as shown in the York School project, enlist the help of others, including parents, faculty and students, specifically those enrolled in environmental sciences.

5. Algebra Ace in Space

Algebra IWhen planning algebra lessons, outer space isn’t the first scenario that comes to mind. In NASA’s ASCENT: 50 Seconds to MECO, students determine a linear function using space shuttle ascent phase velocity and acceleration graphs. Through this project, students will examine domain and range, independent and dependent variables, and algebraic functions.

Project-based learning has been extremely helpful to engage students in economics and other math-based subjects. Learn more about organizing project-based learning in the classroom by reviewing STEM Jobs’ free “Understanding Project-based Learning” guide.


1. NRICH, University of Cambridge


3. Teach 21

4. York School


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