It’s almost the end to my first year of teaching, and my 7th graders are ending the class strong! PBL, or project-based learning, is an authentic learning experience that cultivates the skills employers are looking for today. Looking at the student-made posters, would you have guessed that this was their first time learning about slope-intercept form (y=mx+b)?

I found the project on Buck Institute’s website, an institution breaking grounds on PBL, and made modifications to generate whole class discussions. The project is founded on 8th grade Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but I implemented it in a 7th grade class and had a lot of student success. I would like to share what I did in my classroom, and provide some resources for any educators who may want to implement a version of this in their own classrooms.

Project Pathway
Phase 1) An engaging driving question; Phase 2) Building knowledge and skills to answer the driving question, Phase 3) Develop and critique products and answers, and Phase 4) Student presentations. The project took my class 2.5 block periods to complete everything.

Driving Question
Domino’s does not show prices for individual toppings when you build a pizza. They only show the final price at checkout. In the project, we will use math to figure out how much they are really charging for pizzas.

Building Knowledge and Skills
Students go on Domino’s website first-hand and build their own pizzas. They are to build two different pizzas and answer the Exploration Worksheet. The questions are meant to build on each other, and act as a scaffolding strategy to help students find the mathematical relationship between # of toppings and the cost of pizza. I had 6 student groups, and two groups were responsible for small, medium, and large-sized pizzas each.

Develop and Critique Products
Students are asked to produce a graph, mathematical equation, and word explanation in real-world context. As students make connections between the multiple representations, they were able to find inconsistencies and make adjustments. As the teacher, I went around to each group giving small group instruction on slope and y-intercept. The students were able to retain and apply the information because it had a purpose!

Student Presentations
To put a twist on the traditional “stand in front of the classroom and speak”, I did a gallery walk consisting three rounds. Half the group stayed and presented their posters, while the other half traveled to different posters. In the first round, students traveled to the other group with the same sized pizza. They were able to compare Domino’s pricing model and find inconsistencies even with a pizza of the same size! The other two rounds, they were able to see other students’ research on pizzas of various sizes.

Class and Table Discussions
I ended the project with the whole class discussing slope, y-intercepts, and the equation. A student said thoughtfully, “I noticed the equation is the same, but can be applied in many different ways.” In the end, we learned as a class (including myself!) that the best we can do is to estimate Domino’s prices. The students also talked with their table mates about Domino’s website, business ethics, and how it made them feel as consumers. It is important to provide an opportunity for students to think critically about corporate/social issues after the purposeful application of math!

Peer-to-Peer Feedback
This is the first time I implemented peer-to-peer feedback in the classroom. The students were giving a rubric and asked to evaluate their team members:
The students did popcorn read to understand the different criteria. I had them sit independently from their group mates, and asked them to provide honest feedback. I also emphasized that they will affect each other’s grades. They took the responsibility seriously. The opinion of their group members was honest, consistent, and insightful. I feel that it is healthy to get students to pay closer attention to the opinion of their peers, and divert the dependency on teacher approval.

Have you had success in implementing PBL to provide a genuine opportunity for students to learn new content?