Using a Real Life Contract Bid for Students to Learn Mathematics

By McNamar, Maria McDonald | Journal of Instructional Psychology, June 2009 | Go to article overview
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Using a Real Life Contract Bid for Students to Learn Mathematics

McNamar, Maria McDonald, Journal of Instructional Psychology

This article describes a project where students in a low-performing suburban school learned about profit and area by forming their own companies and creating bids to re-surface of their school's floors. They learned by measuring floor area, calculating costs, performing cost analysis, determining desired profit, making a payment schedule and ultimately presenting a bid. The project highlighted students' multiple intelligences through all the elements in this process. Students created a final product which they presented to peers and judges. This resulted in greater retention, comprehension, enthusiasm and knowledge about mathematics. Students connected with the project, and demonstrated their understanding of area and profit as applied in the real world.


The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM, 2000) states that, "An effective mathematics curriculum focuses on important mathematics--mathematics that will prepare students for continued study and for solving problems in a variety of school, home, and work settings" (pp. 14 -15). This article describes a project where students created a bid for a real life contract for resurfacing the floors of their school. The project involved estimating, physically measuring and calculating and analyzing costs, determining profit amounts desired, and presenting and justifying a bid package to school administrators. The author also describes techniques used to help facilitate this activity and how the project utilized Howard Gardner's (1993) multiple intelligences as tool to highlight students' acquisition of knowledge.

The School

The school is located in a suburban area with a 98% Hispanic student population. Ninety percent of the students were on free or reduced lunch. This activity was conducted with four seventh-grade math classes. The students had just completed a unit on profit, and had studied surface area many months prior. The academic performance of the students has been quite low, with over half the students not passing their math classes. They have established a trend of not turning in their class work.


The coordinator visited a local carpet store to get sample swatches with associated cost per square foot and their associated installation cost. The materials included industrial tile, ceramic tile, carpet, laminate wood, and vinyl. The coordinator also obtained a quote from an environmentally friendly tile company from the Internet. A local contractor business owner agreed to be a guest speaker and answer students' questions.

My Bidding Project

The coordinator introduced the activity with the question, "If you were a contractor, how much would you charge to re-floor the entire school?" Students' responses included, "One thousand dollars, Miss!", "One million dollars!", and "Three billion dollars!". The instructor informed the students that they were going to be owners of contracting companies with the task of creating bids for installing new flooring for the interior of their school. Students formed team-companies (referred to as "companies"). Each created a company name, motto, and logo reflecting the image that they want their company to portray. Each member of the companies was given self and team-evaluation forms to determine a participation grade. This encouraged students to work cooperatively as a team and held them accountable for their actions.

Step 1: Determining the Area

The activity began with a discussion on how to get the area of the room using various materials and methods. Most of the students knew that the formula for the area of a rectangle was length times width. However, a more in-depth discussion occurred when they were asked, "What does that mean?" Students replied, "The square area." Next question: "And that is?" Students responded, "It is how many square units it takes to fill the room." The discussion lead to the size of a "square unit.

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Using a Real Life Contract Bid for Students to Learn Mathematics


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