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Problem Solving Plan #4


 Growing a Garden

Pam Williams

Overview: This activity would be appropriate as a culmination to a semester of Algebra II. Students will have learned all of the mathematical concepts necessary for this assignment. These will include: cost analysis and comparisons, statistical graphing, multivariable equations, systems analysis and graphical representations.

The aim of this activity is to synthesize mathematical skills and apply them to a real world situation (as emphasized in the current NCTM standards).

The goal is to have the students utilize the specific skills learned throughout the semester in connection with a problem outside the classroom.

The estimated time frame for this activity is two weeks of classroom time.

Problem definition:

Not too many years ago many people had gardens in their backyard with a variety of fruits or vegetables growing in them. The grocery store was only used to supplement those items that could not be grown at home. In this day and age not many people grow their own food any longer. Without too much loss of variety and nutritional diversity, these days, can a family of four (two adults, two children, ages 10 and 12) save money by growing a garden in their backyard?


  • Finished products must be neat, clear and concise.
  • A visually appealing representation of the garden must be included, with a key.
  • A cost analysis of gardening vs. purchasing of food should be included with a breakdown of where you derived your figures.-A timeline of the development of the garden from planting to harvest will be shown.
  • A written explanation of how decisions were reached, including evidence of mathematical skills used to determine data. Also any conclusions as to the feasibility of gardening as opposed to buying at the grocery store.


  • Work in groups of three to four students
  • Assume the garden is no bigger than 25 ft. x 25ft and all necessary gardening tools are already available (that is, no money needs to be spent to acquire proper tools).
  • The items to be included in the garden must be varied and take into account nutritional needs.
  • Cost analysis must take into account cost of fertilizers, pesticides, canning (to preserve what is harvested), seeds etc.
  • Timeline should include all labor hours spent from soil preparation to canning.
  • At least four different mathematical skills that we covered this semester must be incorporated into your project.
  • Conclusions must be derived from information presented in your report.


The teacher will provide research materials including, books on nutrition, seed catalogs, newspapers with ads from grocery stores and gardening centers etc. Also students will have access to the school library and the Internet.

After the students have had a few days to do research, a speaker will be brought in to talk to the students during class. (This would be a good opportunity to have someone in the farming business address a math class on a subject not usually discussed with math students).

Skills needed:

This is a great way to incorporate other strengths besides mathematical and logical skills into the math curriculum.

In order to successfully solve this problem students will need to use the following skills:

  • creativity
  • leadership skills
  • interpersonal skills
  • research skills
  • knowledge of nutrition and diet
  • knowledge of botany, agriculture (gardening) and climate
  • ability to synthesize information
  • formatting and presentation skills
  • the ability to extend the mathematics learned previously to a specific problem encountered outside the classroom environment.

Assessment will be based on several criteria:

1) Each of the conditions of the problem must be satisfied

2) An oral presentation given to the class by each group will be evaluated by the teacher and by the other students ( A grading rubric for this part will be given to the students watching the presentations)

3) Discretionary credit give for creativity, originality, and evidence of mathematical thought

4) Each member of the group will be evaluated individually (a group grade will not be given)

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