Learning with License Plates

In July I visited Mexico for the very first time. We spent two glorious, but hot, weeks in the Mayan Riviera. I loved the colours of the Caribbean Sea, the white beaches as well as the friendly Mexicans I met. I was on holidays so I didn’t think too much about teaching but I just can’t help myself…There were many times when I said to myself, “That would make a great math activity”. I’d like to share one of the math ideas I had while in Mexico. Maybe there are other teachers equally crazy about math so I thought I would share what I noticed.

There are several ways you can present these photos but I have been motivated to try to present these in an #anyqs format that have become popular on Twitter. To find examples of similar photos and videos simply search for #anyqs on Twitter. Since it’s become so easy to upload photos and videos to the Internet more and more educators are getting involved. This is fantastic because I think these photos and videos are far more engaging than typical textbook questions have been. Where I’d like to take this, though, is to empower our students to take photos and create videos that we can use in math classrooms. That way we truly become a community of learners where math comes alive!

I would present these three photos in sequence to my students and encourage them to ask more and more questions with each additional photo.

Mexico License PlateI hope that students would ask how many license plates could be created using this combination of letters and numbers. Perhaps they’d ask about whether all possible combinations of letters and numbers can be used and whether those decisions need to be made. I learned that there are 31 states and one federal state in Mexico. I’d provide this information to my students and encourage them to continue asking more questions and solving them.

Alberta license plate - 3 letters & 3 numbersAfter looking at our provincial license plate I hope that students would begin thinking about all the possible license plates that can be made, which letters or numbers or combination of letters and numbers could not be used, etc. We could then compare these answers to those about Mexico’s license plate. For example, “Which format allows for more plates?”

Alberta license plate - 3 letters & 4 numbersJust recently I began to notice different license plates in Alberta in the format shown above. I hope students would ask why we are changing the format and realize that this format allows for more plates. A new question, comparing the two Alberta license plates could be, “How many more plates can be created?”

We could easily extend the idea of license plates across the provinces and territories in Canada and to countries around the world. Students could choose different countries and learn about the license plates, country populations and other information to extend this work in the statistics and probability strand. Perhaps we could challenge students to create their own format and justify why it would be a good idea mathematically. At this very moment I can’t help wondering if QR codes could ever appear on license plates…

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About ccampbel14

I am a junior high math teacher at an Edmonton K-9 school. I am always looking for innovative and creative ways to teach mathematics so that I can reach every learner so they can be as successful as they possibly can be.
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