Ratio and Proportion: Supersized!
NCTM published an article called “Rethink your Drink” by Caroline B. Ebby (November 2013, Vol. 19, Issue 4, Page 242) describing a project where students analyze the sugar content in popular beverages. This project engages students in finding the ratio of sugar to drink, representing the sugar content with sugar cubes, and graphing the various representations. It’s a perfect introduction to ratios and proportions with hands on collaboration!
My students are active learners. They don’t spend much time in my class sitting in their desks working on worksheet or text book problems by themselves. They work in groups and are totally involved in the process.
We started this project with each student predicting the grams of sugar in many of their favorite beverages. I visited the grocery store and bought a variety of beverages that ranged from low in sugar (V8 Original) to very high in sugar (Coke). Each group of students chose several beverages to start their analysis. They needed to know how to read the nutritional label and where to find the serving size.
Their assignment was to determine four things for each beverage:
1. grams of sugar per serving of beverage
2. grams of sugar per ounce of beverage
3. sugar cubes per serving of beverage
4. sugar cubes per ounce of beverage
After they had shown their understanding of ratios to find that information, they created a class list on an Excel Spreadsheet with the data from all the groups. Each group was then assigned the job of creating one of the graphs to represent the class data. We discussed how important it is to use an appropriate scale so that the graph is easy to read and to analyze. The groups went to work creating the graphs.
Another small group of students created the visual representation of the beverages and the sugar cubes. Seeing a cup-full of sugar cubes next to each beverage is a powerful reminder of how much sugar each contains. It also gave a purpose to finding the ratio of sugar cubes to serving size.
After all the graphs were complete, students worked in partners using the Explain Everything App on the iPad to create a video of their analysis of the graphs. Writing a paragraph would have shown the same thinking, but using an iPad and Explain Everything was much more engaging, improving the quality of the analyses.
I highly recommend this project for engaging students in real life examples of ration and proportion. Students are surprised to find out how much (or how little) sugar some of their favorite beverages contain. The visual of the sugar cubes with the beverage shows the sugar content in a very interesting way too.
What kinds of real life examples can you recommend? What other ways can we integrate ratio and proportion with graphing and analysis?