Students look beyond their desks for real-world questions and mathematical answers

How does sleep quality and duration affect classroom performance?
How do figure skaters manage all those impressive jumps and spins?
What is the impact of food deserts on our society?

Fourth-grade students go on a mission to find answers to these, and other complicated questions—using nothing but math. For inspiration, they look through their "Wonder Books," in which they jot down questions as they occurr to them throughout the year.

Having formed a testable question, they move to research and data collection. One student logs his sleeping habits and looks for patterns on how sleep affects his ability to concentrate at school. Another student, who takes ice-skating lessons, studies the mysterious physics and geometry of the sport. A student concerned with food deserts charts the quality of available food and its correlation to the demographics of various areas in Chicago.

The students showcase their projects at Lab's annual Math Expo. For this "poster session," each project board is broken into four sections: the testable question, the math concept used to answer the question, a "graphs and data" section, and a "story problem"—a fictional story that adds human interest.

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