The new Common Core State Standards remind us of the importance of literacy across all curriculum areas. Chad Maguire, a math teacher, asks his students to research and write about a famous mathematician. After giving students an overview of the project and sharing brief biographies of mathematicians, he randomly draws students’ names, and they hold a draft similar to a professional sports draft to select their subjects.
The finished report must include standard information about the person, but students also present the information in a creative way, such as role-playing the mathematician or creating a game. As a final incentive, students earn bonus points based on the number of things they have in common with the person they research. You may prefer to include this in the main grade, rather than using bonus points.
Helping students see relevance in research can be challenging. Another option is to have students choose a topic on Wikipedia and research it using at least three other sources. Then, they compare their information with the Wikipedia entry to see if it is accurate. If there are mistakes, posting them to the Wikipedia site provides an authentic, immediate audience for their work. It's also a great way to teach the importance of checking sources!