The Apartment Search
Most middle schoolers can't wait for a place to call their own. Start them on the right track by giving students an imaginary budget for renting an apartment. Then go online to look for rentals in your area. When kids find something within the budget, challenge them to use the listing information to find the total yearly rent and the rent per square foot. As a class, graph the information students find. What is the most expensive two-bedroom apartment in your area? The least? What about the average cost per square foot?
Helpful link: craigslist.org

Going the Distance
Chances are your students dream of driving a certain vehicle, but they may not have considered practicalities like gas mileage. Divide the class into groups and invite each group member to research the gas mileage of his or her dream car, along with the fuel capacity. Next, have students calculate how far they would be able to drive on one tank of gas. Ask groups to compile their data into a chart to share with the class. As an extension, research gas prices in your area to figure out how much one tank would cost.
Helpful link: fueleconomy.gov

The Power of Stats
Many professions require the use of math, but one of the most appealing to middle schoolers is professional sports. Invite students to choose a favorite athlete and identify three numbers associated with him or her, such as a percentage, an average, and a record. Write the numbers in the top row of a three-by-four grid, then challenge students to fill in the grid by finding alternate ways to represent each statistic, such as converting a percentage to a fraction or a decimal..
Helpful link: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Internet Fame
These days, it looks easy to become famous online. Help students to see that it's harder than it looks by calculating the number of visitors it would take to reach a livable salary. First, assume a website owner uses Google AdSense and receives five cents for every 1,000 visitors. How many visitors would it take to make \$40,000? What if the site also featured three spaces for ads, with a monthly fee of \$100 per ad? Compare the number of visitors required to the traffic of popular sites.
Helpful link: alexa.com

Food by the Numbers
Math factors into some of the most basic human needs, including how much we should eat. When we eat more calories than we burn through activity, we gain weight. When we eat fewer calories than we burn, we lose weight. Explain how to calculate a person's active metabolic rate, or the amount of calories he or she uses per day. Visit the website below for the mathematical formula.
Helpful link: tinyurl.com/instructorAMR

Spare Change
Inviting students to pick out ten different items from a catalog. Next, have kids calculate the change they would have if they bought each item with the rounded-up dollar amount (for example, by paying \$16 for a \$15.75 item). What if they put that change in an account with a five percent interest rate? How long would it take to reach the amount spent on the shopping spree?
Helpful link: themint.org