Alright, so the promotional coupons known as Kohl’s Cash aren’t really stealing, but it sure felt like it this last weekend. I had spent a tidy sum on back to school clothes for the family over Labor Day weekend, and was rewarded for my good consumerism with promotional coupons worth $80 of merchandise at the Kohl’s chain department store. For those not in the know, Kohl’s is one of those large discount department store chains based out of Wisconsin. One of their signature hallmarks are the seemingly magical discount racks found throughout the store; %60-%80 off clothing racks are present in almost every department, and through some retail wizardry, clothes that would normally cost close to $100 are a mere fraction after further discounts and promotions. It’s almost enough to make you question the authenticity of the “original price” stickers and signs.
Regardless of whether Kohl’s and other retailers are pulling a fast one on me, it feels great to be able to walk out of a store having spent $5.28 for over $100 worth of merchandise! Call me easily manipulated (as I had to spend a fair amount to get the discounts in the first place), I at least put the experience to some good use, and created the following video story problem using some simple Algebra to question whether I could have walked out of the store with my purchases without spending a single dollar of my own money.
I know that it’s a rather simple answer, and might not play well in an advanced Algebra class, but the important part is the engagement and connection to a real world setting. I’ve harped about this in a number of blog posts and presentations now for almost a year and a half, but it bears repeating again. We have the tools to bring the world into our classrooms, so why don’t we? Rather than try to create a facsimile of real world problems, why not capture the moments when we feel like we’re “getting a deal too good to be true” or run across some genuinely curious event? Why not encourage our students to do the same, and do away completely with the “when will I ever use this?!” whine heard in many secondary math classrooms. There’s a wealth of experience for us to tap into; if I could find a simple problem like this in purchasing pants, a pancake griddle, and a shower curtain, I shudder with glee at the thought of what an actual math teacher might be able to make of it.
P.S. You should check out the nerdy, yet great, WeUseMath website from BYU.