Students in math classes get down to business

Students in math classes get down to business

CHAMPAIGN – Erin Holm plans to take advantage of the interest in healthy food, and escaping the long months of cold Illinois weather, with her smoothie bar, The Chambana Cabana.

This won't be just any smoothie bar. Her business plan says it will be a tropical-themed, health-conscious, money-making machine!

Holm's cabana will have a floor covered with sand, shallow pools for customers to soak their feet, parrots and reggae music. Her plan includes marketing partnerships with a next-door bikini shop and with fresh fruit vendors and plans for expansion to other cities.

Holm, a junior at Centennial High School, developed the plan for her algebra class. Teacher Jason Franklin focuses his classes on how students will use math in the real world, and in preparing them for succeeding in the workplace.

He and his students spent the year preparing for a business leaders conference, held Wednesday. It's the second year Franklin has put on the conference, and it expanded from a half day to a full day this year.

About 80 students, sophomores and juniors from Franklin's Algebra II and College Algebra classes, were dressed in skirts and heels or suits and ties Wednesday. Speakers gave interviewing tips and talked about entrepreneurship, real estate investing and business loans. During lunch, the students shared their business plans with members of SCORE, or Service Corps of Retired Executives.

Many of the students were actively involved in putting on the conference. Junior Amber Adams did the planning: calling the speakers, reserving space, setting up the menu, soliciting donations from businesses and making a guest list. While Franklin supervised, Amber did all the work. She's considering event planning as a career.

"It's a little more work than I thought. I thought (Franklin) would help me more. I've learned a lot," she said, adding she now feels more comfortable talking with people and e-mailing them.

Franklin said the conference gets the community involved with the school and lets students hear from those with experience in the business world.

There is so much algebra in the real world, he said, and very little real world in math textbooks.

"I wanted (students) to understand why they learn math. Down the road, it applies to how they make decisions," Franklin said.

So he talks about how math will apply to real-life situations. His math students read books and write papers, culminating in their business plans. He explains car loans and home mortgages, and how much buyers are really paying with interest.

"We can be talking about circles and ellipses, and some kid will ask, 'Why are we learning this?'" said junior Ali Reardon. "(Franklin) always has an answer, whether it's the ACT or college, he always has a reason."

After listening to several business plans, Ed Ogan, a SCORE member and former small business owner, talked to the students about starting a business. He urged them to get experience working for someone in the field in which they are interested.

They've got a start with the business plans, he said.

Sophomore Amanda Rogan is good at math, but now she also realizes how her math skills will help her throughout her life. She just turned 16 and she'd like to get a car. She's learned about how quickly new cars depreciate in value.

She also learned how hard it was to develop all the details for a business plan, such as training staff, determining salaries, and creating a marketing plan.

"I'm not really creative. I'm more of a numbers person," she said.

Both the conference and Franklin's class opened up junior Kaley Hoerr to the opportunities in business and are helping her decide what she might want as a career. She also put more thought into her business plan this year, for a '50s retro diner.

"Last year I didn't really think about all the little things – the staff, what it takes to hire someone – things I really didn't incorporate last year," she said.

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