Just a close shave
This article can be used to create an awareness of the absolute necessity to have numeracy skills when reading the newspaper, often considered mainly a literacy skill. One idea would be to present the article to students with the numbers (800m, August 7, 2027, 19,000, and 1/12) removed and ask them to discuss the meaning they can make without this information.
Related to Approach 1 but leaving the numbers in the article, students could be asked to find all of the different uses for number in the article. As fractions do not appear in newspaper text very often, this article provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the meaning of fractions in context, where they actually tell part of the story. This could lead to drawing a scaled diagram of the earth and moon with the distance to the asteroid labelled in two different ways (a fraction of the total distance and as a absolute measure with units).
Students could be asked to use this article as a basis for writing numeracy questions for each other. This task requires literacy as well as numeracy skills. The questions posed will range from easy to difficult and some may perhaps be unsolvable, but they will inform the teacher about the students' abilities to use their literacy and numeracy skills. Some possible questions are those found in the Student Questions.
Notice how many different numeracy and mathematical skills are required to answer these questions. Some of the questions might be used to justify to students the importance of other topics in the mathematics curriculum.
Some of the questions noted in Approach 3 point to specific lessons that could be structured around the article. These include
1. working with fractions and ratios
2. converting units (e.g., imperial to metric)
3. finding volumes.
On the other hand, articles such as this one could be kept on file to be brought out for motivation and application when the lessons occur in their natural curriculum sequence.
It is of course possible to extend the numeracy and literacy
objectives of using this article to the area of science. Students
could be asked to do some research to found out about asteroids,
what they are made of, their likely impact if they hit the earth,
and the theories on their impact in the past. As well students
could collect information on the distance from the earth to the
moon in order the check the validity of the figures given in the
article. As the distance from the earth to the moon varies over
time, this may not be a trivial exercise. It should introduce
the idea of average distance and students can use their estimation
skills to make a judgement about how accurate the fraction 1/12
is to describe the 19,000-mile distance in terms of its relation
to the distance to the moon.
There are undoubtedly other opportunities teachers can find
for using this article. It provides a starting point that should
cater for students with all levels of numeracy from basic recognition
of numbers in context to more advanced skills.
Where to next?
Student Questions for this article
Index - Related articles
Index - Number
Main Index - Numeracy in the News