The Educator’s Guide to Applying Real-World Math: 15 Resources with over 100 Lesson Plans

By HomeAdvisor

Updated March 23, 2020

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On This Page

  1. Grades K-5
  2. Middle School through High School
  3. Resources Encompassing All Age Ranges
  4. Project-Based Learning

Believe it or not, strong fundamentals in mathematics are necessary for just about every career choice and are used every day. Yet math is commonly thought of as dry, boring, and many times unnecessary, and Western math scores are falling behind other first-world nations.

Evidence shows that hands-on learning and real-world applications are more effective at engaging student interest in and recall of material.This actually starts in pre-K and kindergarten with the physical and mental engagement of basic blocks. Blocks have been shown to help with a variety of math concepts in this age group including counting, addition, subtraction, sets, and seriation.

Building blocks

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As kids get older, they still love to build, create, and apply what they learn to real-world scenarios. A great way to engage children with mathematics is through design and construction. Although these topics may seem narrow, they offer a wide range of interesting and challenging real-world applications that can show kids the true power of the math they learn in the classroom. For example, high school students in Canby, Oregon utilized their math skills in a cross-disciplinary approach to learning by building a tiny house on wheels that can withstand strong winds and earthquake-level shaking while traveling up to 60 mph.

We know how tough it can be to engage student interest in math so we’ve compiled a list of resources for lesson plans for grades K-12 so parents and educators can skip all the tedious research and get right to the fun parts of teaching and learning! In this article, we provide lesson plans for both classroom-based and project-based learning, broken down by age group.

Let’s get to it and add those lesson plans up!

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Grades K-5

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), an organization dedicated to supporting and improving education for young children (birth through age 8), understands the importance of prepping children who aren’t in school yet for mathematical concepts. Here they provide 6 mini projects parents can do in the home with their child to engage their minds with math concepts they encounter in their everyday lives.

The Michigan Architecture Foundation (MAF) chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) have provided this wonderful curriculum guide for grades K-5 called Architecture: It’s Elementary! Each grade has over ten lesson plans, all of which build upon the previous plans. They follow a multidisciplinary approach, so although there are a lot of math elements, they encompass other areas such as language arts and science, which encourages critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Building plans

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It is pretty common knowledge that although the gender gap has gotten smaller, girls still remain far behind boys in STEM fields. This comprehensive project by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is aimed at engaging 7- to 9-year-old girls in home design and the architectural profession. This lesson plan talks about real-world female architects and asks young girls to design Barbie’s dream house, going over realistic concepts such as layout, outer wall materials, lighting, ventilation, windows, and doors.

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Middle School through High School

This lesson plan from Math-Kitecture utilizes estimation, measuring skills, proportion, and ratios by having students draw a floor plan to scale of their classroom. It then goes on to guide students through creating a computer-aided design (CAD) version of their floor plan. Architecture applied math skills do not get any more realistic than this.

Annenberg Learner, an organization that provides teachers with resources, has these interactive lessons available on their website. They encompass probability via gambling, interest via credit card management, geometric equations via home design, ratios via cooking and baking, as well as other math lessons with real-world applications.

Treasury Direct, a financial services company, offers a four-lesson curriculum here for grades 7-9. Although these are not construction or design related, these lessons go over real-world financial skills that children will need when they grow up. They were developed according to national school mathematics standards and have been tested in Missouri schools with great reviews.

The Construction Center of Excellence from Renton Technical College provides 14 lesson plans here for 8th– 10th grade students. These lessons take industry-required math and combine them with construction career guidance information, college readiness standards, and fun hands-on activities that demonstrate the concepts in the lessons.

Math Motivation is a website with 20 projects that directly apply math lessons to real-world scenarios. This website is strongly recommended because the lessons provided here are often scenarios that college students and 20-somethings struggle with teaching themselves. Included are lessons for how to budget finances on a minimum-wage salary, how to cut fat from your diet, how much a light left on all night will cost on an energy bill, and how to determine which car has the best value.

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Resources Encompassing All Age Ranges

NASA’s program Practical Uses of Math and Science (PUMAS) provides 87 examples of practical uses of math and science, some of which have lesson plans attached. Although most are for middle and high school students, 16 of the examples qualify for younger kids, including money counting and different measurement systems. The plethora of examples provided for older kids intertwine math and science, requiring students to utilize critical thinking skills, and in alignment with expectations of NASA, a lot of the lessons are outer space themed!

Discovery Education, a company dedicated to the transition of education to the digital sphere, has a searchable database of lesson plans for all grades and all subjects. They have 8 complete lesson plans here for K-5. They include shapes, basic measurement, basic problem solving, and operations. Here you can find 9 lesson plans for middle school children, including a lesson with architectural application. For high school adolescents, they provide 7 lesson plans covering all major forms of beginning conceptual math. These lesson plans provide educators with everything they need and can be implemented right away.

Education World, a website for connecting teachers to each other and to a host of other resources, is constantly updating its lesson plans section. Here they have a TON of teacher-submitted lesson plans for math in applied situations. Their themes range from roller coasters to grocery shopping to sports! They also have more basic math lesson plans, which you can find here, although not all of them contain real-world application.

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Project-Based Learning

There is plenty of evidence to show that project-based learning, which involves a hands-on, in-depth, physical project that spans a decent amount of time, greatly increases student interest and student integration of material. Here, we have provided some resources to implement project-based learning in your classroom or home.

This article discusses the essential components of what project-based learning requires in order to avoid simply being time-consuming “busywork.” Even if you are taking project-based lesson plans from one of these or other resources, this is a good read for successful implementation.

This website, called Instructables, was born out of MIT Media Lab, and has grown into a large community where members share projects with each other. This page specifically has a number of guides designed for after-school programs for students to build simple engineering concepts, such as rubber band helicopters and slingshots.

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) created the Project Based Learning University (PBLU) to help provide deeper learning opportunities for teachers and students. Here they provide project-based lesson plans, 12 of which involve mathematics concepts. provides 8 in-depth problems for students to solve. The lengths of these projects range from days to weeks and often involve other academic disciplines.

drawing with a marker

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Although normal classroom lecture is needed to introduce basics and teach some concepts before they can be handled, implementing math in the classroom can be easy and fun for both teacher and student. Hands-on and real-world application teaching styles engage students with the material more than lectures and create a better retention rate for the material learned. Most students would agree: Why teach the complexities of centripetal force when you can make a slingshot and demonstrate math in action?

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  1. Jaclyn, January 25:

    Thank you for putting together such a wonderful list of resources. I look forward to trying some of these with my students

  2. Ranjitha Vishwa, March 29:

    Excellent list of resources! My middle schooler questions why she needs math in real life and the uses of the mathematical applications and techniques that she is learning. Looking forward to use this information and see how receptive she will be towards the ideas mentioned here and hope this will help her more curious in math. Thanks again for the efforts!

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