Resources and Choices

Mathematics - Grade 8

This unit of inquiry is not a recipe book but rather a launchpad to inspire new BIG IDEAS. We encourage you to use and/or modify one, or several of the BIG IDEAS below. Adapt it to the grade/ ability level of your students.


Enduring Understandings

Choices need to be made based on resource availability


Guiding Questions

How does money shape the way we live our lives? What changes shape our city’s livability?


Mind Opening

Choose or devise practices to encourage students to be open to new experiences and ways of thinking in your classroom. For example, the MindUP in-school program.


Discovery and Inspiration:

Launch the Project

Introduce the Theme: Present the Enduring Understanding and Guiding Questions using vocabulary that is appropriate for your grade level.

About Vancouver Biennale: Play a short video.

Create Project Space: Brainstorm ideas to make the project theme visual and visible using bulletin boards, and/or a project corner to share relevant materials and inquiry questions and processes.

Reference Resources:

Introduction to Sculpture and Public Art Unit Plan for information on how art has evolved over time and the unique experience sculptures and/or public art brings.

Vancouver Biennale 2014-2016 Exhibition Theme: Open Borders / Crossroads Vancouver

 Vancouver Biennale 2009 – 2011 and 2014 – 2016: The Blue Trees – West Vancouver and The Blue Trees – New Westminster and The Blue Trees – Squamish   (Konstantin Dimopoulos, Australia)

•  About Artist and Artwork (PDF)


 Other Resources

National Highway, No. 1 (EnRoute Srinagar to Gulmurgh) (Shilpa Gupta)

Visit Statistics Canada – National Household Survey Website

Income Composition in Canada

Home Ownership and Shelter Costs in Canada


Learning to Learn:

Art Inquiry

• Make a visit to  one of The Blue Trees installations and encourage students to explore the art pieces in different angles individually and in groups  OR

BIG IDEAS Anywhere educators: View the The Blue Trees Virtual Guided Tour Video (Not currently available) MUTE ON and encourage students to explore at different angles individually and in groups.

• This Art Inquiry process enables the students to practice observing, describing, interpreting, and sharing visual information and personal experiences.

• Use the Art Inquiry Worksheet (PDF) to guide and capture their ideas and impressions. Customize or create your own Art Inquiry Worksheet as appropriate for your project and class needs.


Shared Insights

• Sharing Art Inquiry Experience: Ask students to share the Art Inquiry Worksheet responses in class.

Artist Themes – Research: In small groups students rotate between information stations detailing the artist’s life and work. Station topics include: (1) education and training; (2) lifetime of artwork; (2) materials and processes; (3) beliefs and values. At each station, students answer questions and complete a task. For example, at the station “life’s work” students might plot the artist’s various installations on a map of the world.

Artist Themes – Livability: Referring to The Blue Trees and the message the artist attempting to convey on social and environmental responsibilities, ask students to discuss what does livability mean? Does art create livability? Does your viewpoint on livability has a positive or negative impact on the environment? What costs are associated with your definition of livability?


Inquiry Challenges

Ask the students to track every product they use to get ready in the morning (from the most basic to the most obscure), estimate the cost of the products based on price and usage, what a morning shower costs, what is essential versus a luxury, etc. Have the students share their findings in class.

Have students continue with the cost evaluation of the products used each morning, and determine cost per use. For example: a toothpaste tube has 100 ml; 1.5 ml are used each brushing; 2 brushes daily. Cost =100/1.5 x2. Compare the costs of all ‘essential’ products consumed daily. Correlate the product cost to its value. Calculate the percent of money spent on each item.

Record where the product is made and estimate the cost of transportation through linear relations (Cost=good+transportation cost * distance). Can we develop a linear relation to estimate how much workers abroad are earning to make your goods?

Each student selects a different job from a list with an expected hourly rate ranging from low to high, and determines a monthly income based on an estimate of number of hours worked. Students then allocate income to living expenses such as rent, utilities, bills, transportation, and entertainment and document the assumptions used in the calculation, and explore qualifications for that position in terms of education and work experience to attain their respective job and the costs associated with that. Students will share their findings and discuss lifestyle decisions to derive what is a liveable wage in the city.


Student Creations and Taking Action

Ask students to make a wiki in groups including findings from their research. For example, pages can include the mathematical findings as well as descriptions of the liveable wages and financial struggles of different people in various countries. Present and share the online wikis in class and throughout the school.

Heighten one’s awareness of the cost of goods versus its value, and begin to track actual spending against budgeted expenditures. Have students talk to their parents to start their financial planning and set goals for their career choices and education.



• Teacher and students can reflect on their entire learning process by revisiting the Enduring Understanding and relevant Guiding Questions.

• How did the unit of study open inquiry, create cross–curricular learning opportunities and/or apply learning to real life situations? Has this unit of inquiry changed your opinions, values and world view? In what ways, if any, has it helped you grow as a learner?


Ideas for Cross-Curricular Access

Language Arts: Ask students to take the perspective of someone who is struggling financially, keep a journal while studying The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Take a character from the book or a self-created character and take note on events that impact someone’s life.

Social Studies: Have students develop skills in stewardship and sustainability by looking at different countries around the world, from impoverished countries like Congo to countries of extreme wealth like Qatar, and conduct research to determine the liveable wages in those countries and what the average income is. For inspiration, the teacher can share “The Global Food Gap.”


Written by: Katie Dwernychuk, 2013 UBC Secondary School Teacher Candidate

Edited by: Jennifer Massoud, Secondary School Teacher

©2013 Vancouver Biennale