Common Core: Modeling and Real World Scenarios

During summer break, I attended a Common Core workshop sponsored by my district where I unpacked the standards and developed lesson plans for the upcoming year.  As I developed lesson plans, two standards caught my attention.  1. High School: Modeling that links classroom mathematics and statistics to everyday life, work, and decision making. 2. Grade 6, Reasoning to solve real world problems.  Both are asking students to solve real world problems.

As I thought about presenting real world problems to my students, I remembered a real world experience from high school.  In 1979, before lawsuits, San Manuel High offered mining classes to students as an elective due to the demand of the local mining company needing an employee labor pool.  While enrolled in the class, students had opportunities to experience modeling and real world scenarios.  For example, the mining instructor would arrange for students to visit the local mining company and they would tour the underground mine and the smelter/refinery sites.  However, since most of the mining students were interested in working at the underground mine, the instructor would take students to the mine site where they practiced mining skills under the guidance of veteran miners who had over 20 years of mining experience.  The mining students were taught how to operate an Eimco-21 rocker shovel (rail mounted ore loader) and how to drill into the ore body with a pneumatic jackleg.  During this training, students encountered real world obstacles that they had to find solutions for.  If the student miners could not solve the problems they created, then the veteran miners would assist the students, but the price for asking for assistance was listening to the insults that were aimed at the student miners.

Even though this writer worked and held various positions within the copper industry for 20 years, I consider the missed opportunities and the different careers that students could have explored, which might have lead them down a different path.  Instead of the school focusing on a labor pool, maybe they should have introduced the students to professionals such as: geologists, mining engineers, hydrologists, and design engineers.

Currently, our high school parking lot is under construction and solar panels are being installed, which will reduce energy costs and provide shaded parking for students and guests.  However, not only can the solar panels provide energy and shade, the project can provide students with modeling and real world scenarios and the opportunity to work alongside experienced personnel.  For example, the parking lot has a gradual slope from west to east and surveyors had to establish a line of sight that would allow all of the support columns to be aligned and level, which would be a great project for the Algebra and Geometry classes.  The solar panel project involves many types of jobs that include: laborers, electrical and mechanical engineers, welders, electricians, surveyors, heavy equipment operators, and many specialty vendors. 

By allowing students to collaborate with individuals at various job sites, it will help students learn best practices for problem solving, which they can use in their daily lives as they enter the workforce or pursue higher education.


Manuel Chavez

Manuel Chavez

San Manuel, AZ

My name is Manuel Michael Chavez Jr. My greatest contribution to education is being able to relate my 20 years of work experience to my students, which I obtained while working for Magma/BHP Copper, one of the largest underground copper mines in the world. My intentions had been to work for Magma Copper Company for the summer and return to school the following fall to pursue my dream of becoming an educator. Twenty years later, I was still employed with Magma Copper and had held various underground mining positions with the last position being a heavy equipment mechanic. In 1999, the mine announced complete closure and I had been forced and given a second opportunity to pursue my dream. What a bittersweet life-changing event in my life. I obtained my Bachelor’s of Science degree in education from NAU and have been teaching for the Mammoth-San Manuel Unified School District in Southwest Arizona for nine years and am pursuing National Board Certification. In 2009, I was selected as an Ambassador for Excellence for the Arizona Educational Foundation and currently sit on the Board of Directors for Sun Life Family Health Care Clinics and the WestEd organization. It is my belief that by intertwining my classroom lessons with my own life experiences and providing my students real world life scenarios, students become engaged in the lessons and develop a desire to learn.

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