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Menu Math has always been one of my favorite activities to use with my students. I love when one simple item can generate many questions. A couple of years ago, I had the idea to use real menus from actual restaurants to create Menu Math questions with my students, and I routinely incorporate this into my teaching. This year, I came up with the great idea for my students to do a take-home project called Menu Math with Memphis' Black-Owned Restaurants. This project was also inspired by a yearly event in Memphis called Memphis Black Restaurant Week by Cynthia Daniels.

The project integrated Math and E.L.A. In short, my students were asked to find a Black-Owned Restaurant in Memphis and write a short informational piece about it, an opinion piece highlighting why they believe the restaurant is a good choice, and create ten standard-aligned Math questions with an answer key.

I reminded students that they could include any business that sells food, including food trucks and people they may know with a mobile food business. I love how the impact of the projects turned out!

  • Real-world Application: Students had the opportunity to explore and find a "real" purpose for doing Math. Using restaurants they were familiar with helped make the Math more meaningful.

  • High-Quality Questions: I love for my students to create high-quality questions. Using the restaurant they chose, they were required to create ten problems for the project. If you can create something, you understand it! So I always provide opportunities for my students to create.

  • Writing Skills Practice: We are heavily practicing our writing skills in rotation. Although I did not require an essay or anything lengthy for the Info and Review, it was still a great opportunity for my kids to practice the difference between informative and opinion writing.

  • Supporting Black-Owned Businesses: Last, but definitely not least, the project facilitated support for Black-owned businesses. We have actually supported these businesses by placing orders. I've placed orders, and my students and their families have supported these businesses.

For Valentine's Day, one of my students even surprised me with chocolate-covered strawberries by placing an order with one of the businesses we used.

(It was so cute, like a big boy he placed the order and had them delivered to surprise me. )

Even though the project has concluded, the impact of Menu Math with Memphis' Black-Owned Restaurants lingers in our classroom. This idea, born out of my continuous desire for authentic experiences and support for local businesses, turned out to be quite a genius move if I must say so myself.

The project extended beyond our classroom, and families seized the opportunity to transform a simple assignment into a shared adventure. They reported using this project to connect as a family, support their favorite places, and promote their favorites with the class. Families also created experiences by supporting some of the places their child learned about from their classmates.

As I continue crafting high-quality questions for my students using those menus, I am constantly reminded of the influence of this project. Aligned with academic standards, the project meet the academic demands and gave students the opportunity to push their thinking. However, it also gave students an experience, exposed them to new Black-Owned Businesses, and fostered a meaningful experience. Rigor, plus relevance, will always equal the best learning.


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