Centennial students learn concepts with business project

Centennial students learn concepts with business project

CHAMPAIGN – Amber Adams hated math.

She had a bad experience with math class in middle school, and when she started her Algebra II class last fall at Centennial High School, she expected she wouldn't like it any better.

She was wrong.

In Jason Franklin's Algebra II class, she and her classmates learned about math concepts and how they apply to the real world through a project in which they designed, ordered and sold Centennial Charger T-shirts.

They learned about fixed and variable costs, the break-even point after which they start turning a profit, and negotiating with vendors. They developed a marketing plan, sold 234 T-shirts and made $790.80 in profit. They even made a commercial.

"It's not just like (Franklin's) a math teacher. He tells you stuff about life," Adams said.

Franklin doesn't use a textbook, and he teaches only concepts that can be applied to the real world or are on the ACT test. He spent 18 months developing the unit and tying everything in the algebra curriculum to the business model project.

A student may not like math, he said, "But everybody goes to Wal-Mart and understands shopping."

The unit incorporates reading into math class, as all the problems students work on are story problems where they must take a scenario and use math concepts to figure out the answer.

"That's what you do in the real world," Franklin said.

Students begin learning about revenue and costs, then Franklin adds more complexities to the scenarios, such as variable costs, making predictions on how well a product will sell and obtaining a volume discount. The students created graphs and tables using the information, looked at profit functions and calculated their maximum potential profit.

Junior Hana Mendoza said she now knows how a business owner might use a quadratic formula to figure out his or her break-even point for a product.

The students talked about raising the minimum wage and what it might mean.

"Now they know that's a variable cost," Franklin said. "They know that's going to be passed along to consumers. It means a little bit more. I think when they go into the real world, they know to question things a little bit more."

Then the students – 75 of them in three classes – began working on a business plan to sell the T-shirts. They conducted a poll to find what design students liked and if they'd buy a shirt, designed the shirts, planned how to advertise them, took orders and folded and delivered the shirts.

"The kids did almost everything," Franklin said. "They came in and put the orders in, they made the posters, they reminded people about deadlines."

The goal of the project was not to make a profit, but to ensure all costs were covered, Franklin said. The profit will be used for similar projects in Franklin's class in the future.

For many of the students, the highlight of the project was making a commercial about it to show the Champaign school board. They also said Franklin's approach makes learning fun.

"When you make it more exciting, kids want to learn," said Danielle Banks, a junior. "He livened things up."

Sophomore Ally Reis added: "I was not expecting to learn this much, and it was fun at the same time. It drew the interest of students who don't usually talk and who don't usually get involved in the class."

Junior Chris Barr said he used to wonder when he would ever use anything he learned in math class. But now he plans to use what he learned in Franklin's class to figure out how to sell T-shirts for his band.

Franklin said his students showed a genuine interest in learning.

"A lot of people don't get to see the talent I see every day," he said. "These are exceptional students."

Senior turns school into video set

Lackluster Centennial High School students file into class, do poorly on tests, fall asleep at their desks.

Then they get The Shirt.

Once they're wearing their Centennial Charger T-shirts, they run through the hallways, turning cartwheels, doing flips and high-fiving math teacher Jason Franklin on their way into his classroom, where they all do well on their tests.

At least that's the way it works in a commercial to encourage students to buy the T-shirts designed and sold by Franklin's algebra students through a business model project.

Centennial senior Sam Carmichael was calling the shots recently during the taping of the six-minute commercial and another video.

Carmichael, a senior at Centennial, mapped out all the camera angles, set up the lighting and directed the students involved in the five-hour shoot. Then he spent 25 hours editing and adding music and credits.

"This was great because I felt like I was in control of a large group of kids. I was telling them, for this shot, you need to do this or that," Carmichael said. "We'd watch the video after each take and make corrections. It gives me a small taste of what it would be like to be in control of an entire production.

"Hopefully it will be entertaining to people and get the message across," he said.

The two videos he produced were shown at the Champaign school board meeting last week to illustrate the T-shirt project of Franklin and his students. In addition to the commercial, a three-minute video shows Franklin having a nightmare where he is unable to explain to his students how they will ever use algebra in their lives.

Carmichael hopes to sell copies of the commercial to fellow students. And now he has an example of his work to show college admissions officers and potential employers.

Carmichael has always been interested in filmmaking, and he taught himself to use a video camera and a professional editing program. He made a few videos for fun with friends and a couple for a sociology class project.

Then he realized he could make money from his talents. He has produced 10 videos in which he put photos to music for celebrations such as anniversaries, graduations, weddings and birthday parties, and sold copies of them.

He participated in the Education to Careers and Professions program at Centennial this past semester, designed to give students a look at careers that interest them. Carmichael interned with Dreamscape Cinema, a local film company.

The videos he produced for Franklin's class were his final project for the ECP course.

"His quality of work is excellent. His final presentation was very, very well put together," said Marc Changnon, the head of the ECP program.

"His skills, his creativity, his eyes as far as seeing things – it's amazing," Changnon said. "It just worked out great. The self-esteem Sam gained from that, the confidence he gained, the insights into what the career might really feel like, were amazing."

Carmichael said the class and internship encouraged him to pursue filmmaking as a career. He plans to go to Parkland College after high school graduation and later transfer to Southern Illinois University to study film and mass communication.

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