The walls of Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology are plastered with crime tape. The school has transitioned into a laboratory where students are solving scientific puzzles ripped from the headlines. This summer, students in the Special Topics Exploring Mathematics program are using math to analyze skeletal remains and solve a mysterious death.
Exploring Mathematics provides rising ninth-graders an opportunity to participate in a transition program that prepares them for success in algebra. Approximately 300 students volunteered to participate in the six-week course, which counts as an elective math credit. The curriculum is unique to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and was created by three teachers from the district.
Students spent weeks learning math equations and techniques. They are now applying the knowledge to real-life (or death) situations. For instance, students discovered they can estimate time of death by examining the bladder and using formulas. They are determining the gender though reason and using public records research to determine who may have been in the area at the time.
Caelei Brown will be a freshman at Rocky River High this fall. She plans on a career in forensics and was excited to learn a topic in which she has so much interest was incorporated into the summer program.
“It was a total surprise that we got to work on the crime scene,” Caelei said. “The project is so interesting and different from anything we do during the school year. I watched television shows and knew that science and chemistry are important, but I never knew that math equations would help in an investigation. It’s not just about dusting off a bone.”
The crime scene scenario is a brief introduction to education using Common Core. Projects administered through Exploring Mathematics encourage students to set goals and have fun while learning helpful hints. In addition to the crime scene, the students are participating in a healthy living project for which they track how far they walk, analyze the data and make adjustments to improve team goals.
Because of the course, Caelie is more confident about taking math classes in high school. She appreciates the attention the teachers are able to give during the summer course and considers the review essential to taking a step forward in a few months.
“We work together as a group so we can understand there are multiple ways of solving problems,” said Caelie. “I understand math more easily now. Before, I didn’t know how to put numbers in equations or what to do with variables. I can do it now.”