Beware Of Fake Math Modeling Problems

Here’s a question to think about: if you can completely remove a problem’s context and still solve it, can it really be mathematical modeling?

Consider the math problem below from a middle school math textbook. It uses the context of a baseball diamond to discuss rational numbers. It is listed as a “Real-World Link” and demonstrating Math Practice 4 (notice the box in the upper right).

I was watching students work on this page and wondered how important the context was to solving these problems. Then it made me wonder, “What if there was no context? What would change?” This is what the problem might look like it the context was completely removed.