Measuring Energy Consumption at Home
By K Khozein, Middle School Math Teacher
This past quarter in Probability and Proportions, students applied their knowledge of proportional rates in a study on the energy consumption in the home. First, students explored the energy consumption of everyday objects in their home, such as water heaters, coffee makers, charging cables, and various other electronics. They did this by using an online app to estimate their energy consumption.
Following this exploration, students then had to select an item from their bedroom, living room, kitchen, and laundry to track. After consulting with their families, they estimated the number of minutes used, consumption, and cost of using each item for a day, week, month, and year.
This led to a discussion in class the next day about the electric cost of a typical day in San Francisco - where the electricity rate is a whopping 22.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, 67% higher than the national average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After watching this TEDx talk by a former high school student on "The Simplicity of Saving Energy", students discussed ways in which electricity was unnecessarily wasted in their households, such as by leaving electronics plugged in while not in use. Everyone in the class calculated the monetary cost of these unsustainable practices, as well as brainstormed ways to cut down on energy waste at home. This mathematical investigation into sustainability culminated with a letter students wrote to their responsible adults at home, in which students presented their findings and made a proposal for what they could do with the money saved by adopting waste-conscious practices.
These kinds of external connections serve to ground mathematics in reality for our students, which bolsters in-class engagement and also provides an opportunity for the whole family to get involved.