Illuminations: Mathematics and Environmental Concerns

# Mathematics and Environmental Concerns

## Plastic Packaging

 Students participate in an activity in which they investigate the data in connection with recyclable materials and develop plans to help the environment. Specifically, students explore recycling plastic containers.

### Learning Objectives

 Students will: gather data about plastic container recycling graph the data and interpret graphs develop a recycling plan

### Materials

 Plastic Packaging Activity Sheet Recyclable plastic containers Grid Paper

### Instructional Plan

 Show an item or two marked with a plastic recycling symbol. Use a disposable cup made of clear plastic or Styrofoam, a plastic bag, or a plastic food package. Let the students find the symbol and note its number.   Although plastic recycling numbers are voluntary, discuss why many manufacturers include them on new products. The recycling numbers occur in many places on plastic items and not in a standard location. Distribute the Plastic Packaging activity sheet to each student. Preview the directions with the class. Suggest qualities such as color, thickness, and transparency for the students and their family members to notice on item 2 on the sheet. Ask students to complete and bring their activity sheets back to class within an appropriate time period (a few days or up to a week). Students may need grid paper to graph the data collected on the activity sheet. Students can compile the total numbers of unmarked plastic items and the number with each marking. Have group representative help to compile a chart or graph of the class's findings. Help students analyze the data using the Questions for Students (below.) If feasible, students can work with their families to develop plans to conserve and recycle plastics. Invite students to share some of their families' suggestions about conserving and recycling plastics.

### Questions for Students

 What type of markings occurred most often? Least often? Are more items marked or unmarked? Were any marking not easily found? Suppose that items with numbers 1 and 2 are called "easy to recycle" and 6 and 7 are called "very hard to recycle." Did we find more "easy" or "very hard" items? How can you tell? How could we use these results to predict what the number on another plastic item would be?What are some similarities and differences between your family's data and this large-group data? What is the range of numbers of plastic items in each category? If we repeated this activity using ten different containers from each family, do you think the results would be about the same or different? Why?

### Extensions

 Students might repeat the activity at home, using more and different plastic products. They can compare their predictions and graphs with the initial ones. Students can interpret their families' and class's data using decimals and percents. What decimal or percent of the items were marked 2? 5? 7? Unmarked? Students could use their family's data and make either a picture or circle graph.

### NCTM Standards and Expectations

 Algebra 3-5Describe, extend, and make generalizations about geometric and numeric patterns. Represent and analyze patterns and functions, using words, tables, and graphs. Data Analysis & Probability 3-5Collect data using observations, surveys, and experiments. Design investigations to address a question and consider how data-collection methods affect the nature of the data set. Represent data using tables and graphs such as line plots, bar graphs, and line graphs.

### References

 Shaw, Jean M. and Firkins, John. September, 1993. The Arithmetic Teacher. p 27-40.

2 periods

### NCTM Resources

Principles and Standards for School Mathematics

 More and Better Mathematics for All Students
 © 2000 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Use of this Web site constitutes acceptance of the Terms of Use The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is a public voice of mathematics education, providing vision, leadership, and professional development to support teachers in ensuring mathematics learning of the highest quality for all students. The views expressed or implied, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official positions of the Council.