"Students love this activity," says Cossondra George. "It's one of their favorites. Students have told me they now want to be architects, builders, and so on. Parents have told me how cool they think it is that their children are learning why math really is important."
George's seventh grade math and technology students at Newberry (Michigan) Middle School design a "dream house" and then create life-size versions of their dream homes on a football field.
"My husband is a builder, so the connection between construction and math was natural for me," George told Education World. "I'm always looking for ways to make what we do in class relevant to real life for my students, so this seems a perfect opportunity to do that."
First, students look at many blue prints to learn how they are set up, what scales are used, and different elevations. Next, students measure their own homes. They calculate the perimeter and take room measurements and record those on a pre-made chart. Their findings are used to create to-scale drawings of their real homes. Then it's time to design their dream homes.
"Students draw a dream house floor plan sketch," explained George. "Working in groups of four, they then draw a to-scale blueprint of one of their dream homes with certain pre-set requirements. The home must have at least two bedrooms, one bath, a living room, and a kitchen, and be between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet."
With blueprints in hand, students visit a football practice field with measuring tapes, string, hammers, and posts to "construct" their houses. Each group receives a bucket with the tools required to complete the project. They must "square up" corners using the Pythagorean Theorem, use accurate measurements, and exercise other math skills to get the job done.
"The details my students are willing to put into their drawings/blueprints always impress me," observed George. "They really go to great lengths to have wonderful house plans. Even students who typically do not excel in math class totally participate in this activity, completing all parts."
Extensive planning keeps George's project manageable. The activity takes abundant class time, and student groups often are working at different stages of the project at the same time. Teachers must be prepared for the noise and "chaos" that go with such a project. It is the students' enthusiasm for the project that generates a heightened sense of ownership and personal responsibility.
George refers to the project as very much a "trust" activity. "With 25-30 students spread out across a huge football field with hammers and other tools, you have to know your students and know they will handle themselves appropriately," she added. "There have been years when I did not feel comfortable doing this activity with a class, but I am excited to say this year's group of students will do a house building project."
Article by Cara Bafile
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