Sustainability Efforts on Our Campus: A Mathematical Analysis

This page was authored by Lori Carmack, Salisbury University.
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Three open-ended activities are briefly presented. In the activities, students use basic computational skills and elementary descriptive statistics to collect, analyze, and summarize data related to campus sustainability efforts. In doing so, students creatively apply mathematics to a practical situation and learn more about campus sustainability efforts.

Learning Goals

  • The main goal of these projects is to increase student awareness of campus sustainability efforts.
  • Prepares students to build effective coalitions
  • Engages students in civil discourse/ communications that lead to more effective decisions
  • It advances student literacy around sustainability issues.
  • Encourages self-reflection and personal development of their voice for solving societal challenges
  • Promote creative visioning around sustainable futures
  • These activities develop data analysis and quantitative reasoning skills.

Context for Use

These activities are intended for a college level quantitative reasoning or mathematics for liberal arts course, but could easily be adapted for a high school setting. These activities are meant to be used as small group projects and completed over a period of several days outside of class. Skills necessary for the project include basic computation and elementary descriptive statistics. Students also need internet access and data analysis software.

Description and Teaching Materials

The uploaded files contain three open-ended but simple activities to improve student awareness of campus sustainability efforts. The projects are written for Salisbury University specifically, but of course can be easily adapted to other institutions.

In particular, students are first asked to collect campus specific data on water bottle filling stations, recycling efforts, or greenhouse gas emissions. Students are directed to the campus website as a starting point, but are encouraged to contact campus employees for more information and to collect accurate and up-to-date data.

Students then use basic computational mathematics to describe and creatively analyze the data. They are encouraged to compute proportions, percentages, and probabilities, to make estimations and approximations, to perform unit conversions, and to draw comparisons. They are also expected to visually display the data in various ways.

Students are also expected to give a formal presentation to the class summarizing the particular campus sustainability effort and their computations.

Water Bottle Filling Stations Project (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 15kB Jul13 15)

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Project (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 15kB Jul13 15)

Recycling Program Project (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 15kB Jul13 15)

Teaching Notes and Tips

These projects do not give students much guidance or direction and are very open-ended. Many students appreciate the creativity and freedom, but some students find this frustrating. Helpful ways to give more direction include having students work in groups (more often than not at least one group member will "catch the vision") and also holding class discussions and brainstorming sessions once the groups have collected their data.


A detailed grading rubric is distributed to the students beforehand.

References and Resources