At the moment we're looking at linear equations. As far as Algebra subjects go, it's kind of dull. And the dullest of the dull sections come when you discuss the point-slope equation. So you can solve things like "given (3,2) and a slope of m=3, what is a linear equation that satisfies these two things?" and further taking that and making lines parallel and perpendicular to it. Fabulous, but it's torture to teach. Mostly because it's one of those things that seems to be math for math's sake. Then a student gave me a brilliant idea. We did a little reminder of what makes lines parallel, perpendicular, etc when someone blurts out "it's like streets!" Of course! Then I poked around the school's neighborhood:
In just this small little area there are parallel and perpendicular lines all over the place. Throw a grid on top and now we're finding equations that feel less arbitrary. Would be great on a test. If you put your cross-curricular hat on, this could lead to a good discussion on why roads get built this way. Also makes a neat comparison between Old World cities and New World cities, why are places like London and Paris so haphazard? Why'd they make New York so cookie-cutter?
Kids are willing to see math around them if you let them.