Conflict Minerals -- International Percent Change - 21st Century Math Project

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How many people have died for you to have the cell phone in your pocket? This may never have been something that you considered, but the answer would likely surprise you. Given the incredible value of minerals that are used to make electronics and other devices and the human rights statuses of different countries around the world, there are criminal operations that use these materials as leverage.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the largest country in Central Africa, armed conflict is a daily norm. Multiple civil wars are being fought and powerful rebel organizations live outside the law. There is no rule of law. The civilians are intimidated, abused, starving and dying. 45,000 people die every month due to the conflict. Although the country is estimated to possess over 27 trillion dollars’ worth of mineral resources, the citizens cannot take advantage of them. The rebel groups use violence, slavery and child labor to control most of the minerals. They are able to smuggle the minerals through other countries and to sell them undetected. The proceeds then go directly to funding the ongoing suffering and violence. It is estimated that 60% of all mineral sales from DRC support the violence of the criminal regimes.

In this 21st Century Math Project, students will use the skills of percents to solve authentic global problems. Through this project students are immersed with problems that are not only practical for the math content, but are ripe for a collaboration with your social studies department!

In this 16 page document you will be given a mapping to the Content Standards, an outline for how to implement the project, handout resources for students to use, and an answer key. In all it is two extended assignments and a project --

-- In "Mineral Usage", students will use basic operations and percents to investigate authentic mineral data to determine lifetime costs and percent changes. They will look at percentage of imports and the mineral composition of a cell phone.

-- In " Cell Phone Minerals", students will investigate the composition of minerals of cell phones. Students will be given the percentage break-down and use these measures to determine the weight of the materials use in all of the cell phones in the world.

-- In “Importing Minerals”, students are give the percentage that the US is self sufficient or relies on imports and uses this information to determine the overall spending on these minerals.

-- In "Conflict Minerals", students look at the value of the four main conflict minerals of the Democratic Republic of Congo and consider Conflict-Free data from the leading technology companies compliments of the Enough Project.

-- In "Conflict Minerals Take Action Infographic", students will use evidence from the mathematics work to build an infographic.

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Ratio, Proportion & Percent

21st Century Math Projects -- All the Projects

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21st Century Algebra –- the Entire Curriculum

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Total Pages
16 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
4 days
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Use proportional relationships to solve multistep ratio and percent problems. Examples: simple interest, tax, markups and markdowns, gratuities and commissions, fees, percent increase and decrease, percent error.
Represent proportional relationships by equations. For example, if total cost 𝘵 is proportional to the number 𝘯 of items purchased at a constant price 𝘱, the relationship between the total cost and the number of items can be expressed as 𝘵 = 𝘱𝘯.
Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities.
Find a percent of a quantity as a rate per 100 (e.g., 30% of a quantity means 30/100 times the quantity); solve problems involving finding the whole, given a part and the percent.
Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving the four operations with rational numbers.


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