Lesson plan helps students better understand recursion in the real world

Image: Chris de Kok, CC BY 2.0

NCSSM Math faculty have developed lesson plans to help students learn the basic ideas of recursion and how to set up recursive systems that represent certain real-world phenomena. The lessons are appropriate for grades 9-12, and can be used in courses such as Discrete Mathematics, Advanced Functions and Modeling, Algebra 2, or Common Core Math 1-3.

Because recursion allows us to design models that capture phenomena that change at fixed time periods, it can be useful in many real-world scenarios. The lesson plans explain how students can use recursion to better understand how pollution spreads in the interconnected network of the great lakes, and how a disease spreads in a closed population. By including these and other real-world scenarios, the lessons better engage students who would not normally find an interest in recursion as a mathematical concept. By studying recursion, students also gain a better understanding of exponential functions.

The lessons include student handouts, full teacher solutions and demonstration videos, including a video on how to use the calculator to graph recursive systems, and another video describing how to carry out a fun activity called “Pass the Candy.”

Example problems are designed to help students develop reasoning skills and encourage independent thought. Students will learn to use technology to obtain visual representations of recursive systems.

The lessons also include fun, interactive activities that help reinforce concepts taught, and an optional final group assessment. Both lesson plans take 7-9 days to complete, but can be easily modified to take less time.

View Lesson Plans

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