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Curricula for Global Sustainability Education

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Real World Math: Engaging Students through Global Issues - Student Workbook
Real World Math: Engaging Students through Global Issues - Student Workbook

Student Workbook
Real World Math promotes student engagement by providing real-world data on global issues with a focus on practical solutions. This student workbook concentrates on foundational algebra and geometry concepts. All lessons are aligned with National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards and Expectations. Topics range from climate change to financial literacy and build both mathematical knowledge and global perspective. Complementary datasets are also available to download for free.


ISBN 9780981557731
Price $12.95
Starting from: 50 items $11.00



Free Previews & Table of Contents

Introduction and Table of Contents

The introductory pages and table of contents of Real World Math.

Download the introduction and table of contents for FREE!Student textbook download Download the introduction and table of contents for FREE!Teacher's guide download


Lesson 1. Number Patterns: Waste & Recycling

Students explore number patterns related to the disposal and recycling of plastic bottles. Long-term trends in waste production per person are graphed, and students break down the percentages of various materials that compose our waste stream.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Waste Not, Want Not
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Patterns


Lesson 2. Introduction to Algebra: Poverty & Microcredit

Through a simulation activity, students learn about microcredit lending — a financing structure that supports small-scale business ventures and is designed to help people rise out of poverty. Students solve algebraic equations in order to complete a microcredit loan application.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Microcredit Business Plan
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Algebra


Lesson 3. Modeling Integers: Population Growth

Students examine growing and declining populations and predict future population growth based on current population growth rates. Integers are plotted on a coordinate plane to examine the pattern of population decline in Japan. Students discuss the consequences of different patterns of population growth.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: The Ups and Downs of Population
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Integers


Lesson 4. Solving Algebraic Equations: Food Choices

Students examine how choices in daily activities and nutrition affect individual well-being and sustainability. They consider how caloric intake relates to calories burned. They read nutrition labels, review recommended daily allowances, and solve algebraic equations to determine healthy eating habits.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: You Are What You Eat
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Solving Equations


Lesson 5. Data & Graphs: Youth Conflict

Students examine information compiled by the Youth Violence Project to explore recent trends in violence among youth. Students create a variety of graphs to represent various statistics related to conflict among youth. They then reflect on possible root causes of the observed trends.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Increasing the Peace
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Data & Graphs


Lesson 6. Number Theory: Consumption Choices

Students evaluate their personal consumption choices and the factors that influence those choices. Utilizing information in a table, students create an algebraic equation to compare embodied energy in cups made of different materials. After reviewing information related to the environmental impacts and the costs of a number of different cups, students must choose which cup to purchase.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Paper or Plastic?
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Fractions


Lesson 7. Rational Numbers: Financial Decisions

Students begin by analyzing information from a credit card offer. They then work through calculations to analyze financial choices made by 2 young people. The activity connects to national budgeting and debt by investigating the revenues and expenditures of 2 countries.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Did You Budget for That?
  • Lesson Handout: National Spending Spree
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Percent
Download Lesson 7 for FREE!Student textbook download Download Lesson 7 for FREE!Teacher's guide download


Lesson 8. Proportion, Percent, & Probability: Global Health

Students compare life expectancy among several countries and discuss possible explanations for observed differences. Life expectancy is correlated with other statistics for multiple countries. During a class discussion, students analyze the usefulness of life expectancy as an indicator of a country’s well-being.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Live Long and Prosper
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Rates, Ratios, & Proportions


Lesson 9. Solving Inequalities: Carbon Emissions

Students create connections between individual actions and climate change. They work with algebraic inequalities to consider how many and what types of activities can be performed while staying within a limited carbon budget.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Budgeting for Climate Change
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Inequalities
Download Lesson 9 for FREE!Student textbook download Download Lesson 9 for FREE!Teacher's guide download


Lesson 10. Spatial Thinking: Solar Power

Students reflect on ways in which they use energy for everyday activities and the fuels used to power those activities. Students use geometric and trigonometric formulas to calculate unknown angles and side lengths of a triangle formed by a solar panel that is tilted to optimize incoming solar radiation. Implications of utilizing renewable energy sources, including solar power, are considered in light of climate change and energy security.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: What’s Your Angle?
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Angles


Lesson 11. Area & Transformations: Wildlife Habitats

Snow leopards are an endangered species of wildcat that are native to the mountains of central Asia. Students compare the sizes of different habitats snow leopards live in around the world and practice transforming a trapezoid on a coordinate plane. They reflect on what makes this species endangered, characteristics of a proper habitat, and different ways of helping endangered species to survive.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Home Sweet Habitat
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Transformations


Lesson 12. Surface Area& Volume: Sustainable Design

Students analyze the characteristics of sustainably designed items. In a real-world application exercise, students calculate the surface area and volume of a prism and a cylinder in order to connect geometric properties to sustainable design principles. A closing discussion raises questions about the applicability of sustainable design to different situations, as well as its social and economic impacts.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Taking Shape
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Surface Area & Volume
Download Lesson 12 for FREE!Student textbook download Download Lesson 12 for FREE!Teacher's guide download


Lesson 13. Linear Functions: Systems & Global Education

This 2-day lesson begins with a lively introductory activity in which students examine how a system works. They experience limits to success, redesign a system to improve efficiency, and begin to identify assumptions that drive human behavior. Then students analyze current global trends in primary school education and use systems thinking to generate solutions that address root causes of barriers to education.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Bears in the Air
  • Lesson Handout: Making the Grade
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Linear Functions


Lesson 14. Midpoint & Distance Formulas: Resource Distribution

By plotting the geographical coordinates of community resources in a given city, students will consider how the location of resources affects sustainability. Students calculate distances and midpoints using coordinate geometry.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Putting Sustainability on the Map
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Midpoint & Distance


Lesson 15. Data Analysis: Quality of Life

In this 2-day lesson, students develop indicators to measure quality of life and conduct a survey of peers and adults to obtain data for their indicators. They analyze the survey data by calculating measures of central tendency and producing charts to demonstrate their results.

  • Lesson Plan
  • Lesson Handout: Quality of Life Survey Instructions
  • Lesson Handout: Quality of Life Survey
  • Lesson Handout: The Good Life
  • Practice Worksheet: Practice with Data Analysis


Preview Video

In this archived webinar you will learn more about how you can use Real World Math to engage your students and increase their understanding of foundational algebraic and geometric concepts. Hear from Facing the Future staff and classroom teachers about ways to use this research-based teacher's guide and student textbook to support the development of math skills through highly engaging real-world investigations of current global issues.

Resource Details 

Why Use Real World Math?

When introducing new mathematics concepts to students, you may have heard them ask, “When will I ever use this?” and “How does this affect me?” Real World Math: Engaging Students through Global Issues promotes student engagement by providing real data on global issues with a focus on practical solutions.

Foundational algebra and geometry skills are taught here within the context of global issues and sustainability. Sustainability refers to the ability of current generations to meet their needs without limiting the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Students will investigate a range of sustainability issues, including quality of life, community resource distribution, educational attainment, and waste/recycling methods.

These investigations encourage students to build on their mathematics knowledge while simultaneously using 21st-century skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration with peers, and applying a global perspective. These combined skills will help prepare students for the future and engage them in problem-solving activities similar to ones they will encounter as active, engaged citizens.

The teacher’s guide includes 15 lessons that were inspired, researched, designed, and field tested by mathematics teachers and other education professionals. Lessons are aligned with learning standards developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Each lesson has additionally been aligned with concepts taught in the nation’s most widely used textbooks on introductory algebra and geometry. Real world data sets and teaching ideas have been included to further support contextual math explorations.

Action projects and lesson extensions have also been included to allow learning beyond one-day classroom activities. In addition, there are master pages that correspond to the student workbook  a resource that includes lesson handouts, supplemental worksheets, and topical sustainability readings. These lessons can be used as hook activities to start a unit of study, as reinforcement for previously learned concepts, or as real world assessments of learning.

This guide is a tool to help support your efforts in equipping your students with the knowledge and skills they need to solve problems big and small. Enjoy these investigations!


How to Use Real World Math

Real World Math can be used to supplement lessons within many popular U.S. math textbooks and is often compatible with existing curriculum requirements and topics. This textbook extends students’ learning through an interdisciplinary approach to issues.

State Standards


To complement Real World Math, below are several online supplements that can be used alongside different lessons in the book. The six Excel files include real-world data featured in Real World Math. Students can use Microsoft Excel to create graphs using the data provided. The TI-Nspire lesson is an adaptation of Real World Math Lesson 5, “Data & Graphs: Youth Conflict”.

Lesson 1 Dataset – Number Patterns: Waste & Recycling (Excel)

Download the Lesson 1 Dataset for FREEThis dataset includes changes in the average pounds of waste discarded per person per day in the United States, 1960 to 2000. This dataset is for use with lesson 1, in which students use the data to create a line graph illustrating how waste disposal per person has changed over time.


Lesson 3 Dataset – Modeling Integers: Population Growth (Excel)
Download the Lesson 3 Dataset for FREE

This dataset includes changes in population size and age structure in Japan, 1990 to 2050. This dataset is for use with lesson 3, in which students use the data to calculate changes in population by age group and to graph the trend of population change in Japan.


Lesson 5 Dataset – Data & Graphs: Youth Conflict (Excel)

Download the Lesson 5 Dataset for FREEThis dataset includes different statistics related to youth violent crime rates in the United States. This dataset is for use with lesson 5, in which students use the data to create bar and line graphs and a scatterplot illustrating trends in youth violence conflict.


Lesson 5 Dataset – Data & Graphs: Youth Conflict (TI-Nspire)

This activity is an adaptation of Lesson 5, “Data & Graphs: Youth Conflict”, designed for use with the TI-Nspire.

Contact us to request this FREE activity.

Lesson 8 Dataset – Proportion, Percent, & Probability: Global Health (Excel)

Download the Lesson 8 Dataset for FREEThis dataset includes a variety of global health indicators for sixteen countries. This dataset is for use with lesson 8, in which students calculate changes in life expectancy for individual countries and correlate life expectancy with other national statistics.


Lesson 13 Dataset – Linear Functions: Systems & Global Education (Excel)

Download the Lesson 13 Dataset for FREEThis dataset includes indicators of progress on the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal on education. This dataset is for use with lesson 13, in which students create line graphs to assess trends in target and actual percentages of primary school completion in four world regions.


Appendix B Dataset – Data & Graphs: Democracy & Freedom of Information (Excel)

Download the Lesson Appendix B Dataset for FREEThis dataset provides indices for the levels of democracy and freedom of information for twenty-nine countries. This dataset is for use with Appendix B (Additional Datasets and Teaching Ideas), in which students create scatterplots to determine whether level of democracy correlates with access to digital information.

Curriculum Funding Toolkit

Use this toolkit to help find funds to purchase Facing the Future curriculum for your classroom. The funding opportunities listed below have been screened by Facing the Future staff to ensure that they are easy to apply to and that funds from these sources can be used to purchase our curriculum.

Learn more about:

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Current Funding Opportunities


Eligibility: Teachers, Schools, Districts

Amount: Varies  |  Deadline:  Open

Adopt-A-Classroom partners donors with teachers so you can have funds to purchase critical resources and materials for your classroom. By registering, your classroom will be posted on the Adopt-A-Classroom website available for donors to select. When adopted, you will have full discretion to purchase items that meet your unique classroom needs. FAQs

Learn more about and apply for funding from Adopt-A-Classroom


Eligibility: K–12 public schools

Amount: Varies  Deadline: Open

Teachers can post a project or curriculum they would like to fund. Donors can make an online donation for any amount toward the cost of the project or curriculum. When the item is fully funded, DonorsChoose purchases the item and sends it and a thank you kit to the teacher.

Learn more about and apply for funding from Donors Choose

The Lawrence Foundation

Eligibility: U.S.-based IRS 501(c)(3) qualified charitable or public schools and libraries

Amount: Varies  Deadline: April 30 and October 31

The foundation is focused on making grants to support education, health, human services, and other causes, with the opportunity to support other diverse areas on an occasional basis.

Learn more about and apply for funding from The Lawerence Foundation

Learn and Serve America

Eligibility: Local Educational Agencies, public or private schools, nonprofits, and higher education institutions

Amount: Varies by state  |  Deadline: Varies by state

Do you have an idea for a service-learning project that will impact your community? Learn and Serve America provides grant support annually (primarily through intermediaries) to diverse partnerships to develop and sustain service-learning projects. Generally, grants are for a period of three years, renewable annually contingent upon performance and the availability of funds.

Note: Funds are allocated to each State by a formula that considers each State’s school-age population and Title I allotment. Grants are awarded on a non-competitive basis to States through State Education Agencies (SEAs) that then provide sub-grants to Local Educational Agencies, public or private schools, nonprofits, and higher education institutions that implement programs.

Examples of State Learn and Serve Programs: FL, NY, TX, IL,CA, WA

Parent Teacher Association (PTA)

As the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the nation, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) reminds our country of its obligations to children and provides parents and families with a powerful voice to speak on behalf of every child while providing the best tools for parents to help their children be successful students.

Student Achievement Grants - NEA Foundation

Eligibility: Applicants must be practicing U.S public school teachers in grades PreK–12, public school education support professionals, or faculty and staff at public higher education institutions

Amount: $5,000   |  Deadline: Open

The NEA Foundation Student Achievement Grants aim to improve the academic achievement of students in U.S. public schools and public higher education institutions in any subject area(s). The proposed work should engage students in critical thinking and problem solving that deepen their knowledge of standards-based subject matter. The work should also improve students’ habits of inquiry, self-directed learning, and critical reflection.

Learn more about and apply for funding from the NEA Foundation

Toshiba America Foundation

Eligibility: Public and non-profit private schools

Amount: Varies

Deadline: Applications for grades K-5 accepted once a year on October 1st; applications for less than $5,000 for grades 6-12 accepted on a rolling basis; applications for more than $5,000 for grades 6-12 due August 2, 2010.


Toshiba America Foundation (TAF) grants fund the projects ideas and materials teachers need to innovate in their math and science classrooms. TAF is interested in funding projects designed by teachers or small teams of teachers for use in their own schools.

Verizon Foundation

Eligibility: Schools and 501(c)3 organizations

Amount: Grants average between $5,000 and $10,000  |   Deadline: January 1 and October 31

The Verizon Foundation seeks to improve literacy, knowledge, and readiness for the twenty-first century. Its four core areas are education, literacy, Internet safety, and domestic violence.  Eligible organizations seeking grants from the Verizon Foundation must be prepared to track and report program outcomes and specific results that demonstrate measurable human impact. In the grant application, organizations must indicate what outcomes are targeted through programming and what results, as specified on the grant application, the organization will measure.

Learn more about and apply for funding from the Verizon Foundation

About Federal Funding

Federal funds tend to be large grant awards and most often are open to schools, districts, or state governments. Individual teachers are not typically awarded small grants through Federal Grant Programs. You can search all federal funding opportunities at or Department of Education funding opportunities at their Discretionary Grant Application Packages page.

Information About Programs

Use the Guide to Education Programs to learn about federally funded programs. Below are direct links to specific programs for which funding opportunities may arise or may be available through your state:


Grants Forecasting
The grants forecast can help you identify grant competitions within some of these programs that may open soon.


Tips and Resources



Don’t let a lack of funds keep you from using our curriculum resources. If you teach at a Title I school or have a high percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch, please contact us.

Classroom Examples 

The classroom examples below shows how Real World Math can be used to address a variety of classroom challenges and increase student involvement.

Heidi Rudolph
  • School: Orange High School, Pepper Pike, OH
  • Grades: 9-10     Classroom Size: 14
  • Subject: Math

Amy Spies
  • School: Community Learning Center East, Port Orange, Florida
  • Grades: 7-9     Classroom Size: ~15
  • Subject: Math

Educator Quotes

 Although we generally work with a lot of story problems in math, these lessons are more involved and are not at all contrived. 

- Angie Flynn, Math and Science Teacher, Grade 7, Providence, RI


 The lesson was active, it involved using and applying skills that they had just learned (slope and linear equations). The discussion about systems and education provided many students opportunities to talk and express their opinion, which doesn’t happen when teaching from a traditional textbook. ... My students loved it because it was so different from the normal and it was very student involved and interesting. 

- Sue Solomon, Math Teacher, Grade 8, Billings, MT

 The other teachers and I loved this as a supplemental activity that reviewed using algebraic equations in a real world situation. 

- Erica Bergamini, Math and Science Teacher, Grade 6, Seattle, WA 


 Rather than using prescribed practice items, this provided real world skills. It wasn’t an add-on, but just a replacement of less effective materials. 

- Amy Spies, Math Teacher, Grades 7-9, Florida 


 These activities evoke a personal connection between global issues and necessary math skills. 

- Math Teacher, Florida


 These lessons were wonderful in reinforcing ideas and practicing new learning. 

- Math Teacher, Georgia


 Students of all levels were engaged. 

- Math Teacher, New Jersey

Professional Development

Facing the Future offers the following professional development opportunities to help you learn more about Real World Math: Engaging Students through Global Issues:

Real World Math Webinar

In this webinar you will learn more about how you can use Real World Math to engage your students and increase their understanding of foundational algebraic and geometric concepts. Hear from Facing the Future staff and classroom teachers about ways to use this research-based teacher's guide and student textbook to support the development of math skills through highly engaging real-world investigations of current global issues.




To learn more about our upcoming workshops, webinars, and conferences, please visit our Workshop Calendar. If you are interested in having Facing the Future host a webinar for your next event, please contact us.


Real World Math Workshop

Sustainability by the Numbers: Using Foundational Algebra and Geometry to Address Real World Issues

Engage middle school students with contemporary issues like carbon footprint, national debt, sustainable design, renewable energy, and population growth in your math classes. In this workshop you’ll participate in hands-on geometry and algebra lessons that use real world data to engage students with the numbers in real world contexts that are relevant to their own lives. Lessons from Facing the Future’s Real World Math textbook provide the techniques and content knowledge necessary to teach about global issues in the 21st century.

Additional Professional Development Opportunities


To learn more about our upcoming workshops, webinars, and conferences, please visit our Workshop Calendar. If you are interested in having Facing the Future present at your next event, please contact us.

Supplementary Materials

To complement Real World Math, this section contains background information and additional resources to help educators and students learn more about global issues and sustainability.

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About Us

We equip and motivate students to develop critical thinking skills, build global awareness, and engage in positive solutions for a sustainable future through hands-on curricula and professional learning.

Facing the Future is an
independent program of WWU