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Worldwide Internet Math Project a Shoe-in for Success!


Curriculum Center

Students across the United States and the world joined fifth-grade students from Connecticut to count the number of metal eyelets on their shoes. The collected data is being compared, graphed, and calculated! Included: The skills this worldwide Internet project promotes.

Image Students from around the world joined fifth graders in Windsor, Connecticut, this month to research the number of metal eyelets on students' shoes.

About 450 fifth graders from four elementary schools in Windsor participated in the study April 9 along with students from Russia, Argentina, Canada, and eight other U.S. states. Called An Eye-Opening Experience, the project called on students to count the number of metal eyelets on their shoes, if any, and to report the data -- including school name, number of eyelets, and number of pairs of shoes -- on online data sheets, which are now posted at Results. Students now can analyze the data in a variety of ways and compare them with findings from their own school or class.

"We really wanted a math connection," said Joyce Hamilton, Windsor's mathematics curriculum leader.

Shoe Eyelet Project Teaches Skills

The shoe eyelet project is designed to reinforce the following technology and computation skills:

  • Data collection
  • Estimation
  • Data analysis
  • Review of variables
  • Use of different forms of averages
  • Use of e-mail
Administrators kept the focus on curriculum skills, explained Daniel Phelon, a technology coordinator for the school system. "We wanted to take the curriculum and see how technology could bolster it," Phelon told Education World. The other advantage of this online project is that the data collection can be done in one day, he said.

Although the eyelet project is a common classroom assignment, the Windsor staff expanded it to include other schools via the Internet, Phelon said. Involving other schools also allowed teachers to integrate social studies lessons. Students discussed the characteristics of the states and countries where the participating schools are located. Some classes also are charting schools' longitudes and latitudes.

All participating teachers were given the same definition of an eyelet: "a small round hole reinforced with a metal rivet used for shoelaces." Students were not told ahead of time what they would be counting during the project, so it would not influence their choice of shoes for the day.

In teacher Peggy Gross's fifth-grade class at Windsor's Poquonock Elementary School, 15 out of about 24 students reported having no eyelets in their shoes.

One of Gross's students, Amy, 10, said she enjoyed the project. "We could talk to friends about it and see what different schools are doing," Amy said. "I thought I had some eyelets, but mine weren't metal."

In fact, the Windsor students discovered as they counted, metal eyelets are vanishing from shoes, replaced by plastic ones or un-reinforced holes punched in the leather.

Students in teacher Ed Learned's class also quickly realized that the number of eyelets in a shoe has to be in multiples of four. Only nine out of about 20 students in Learned's class had shoes with eyelets.

For future projects, Windsor teachers may have to tweak or eliminate the current definition of eyelets, Hamilton said.


Another participating teacher, Debbie Kendall, who teaches talented and gifted students at Edison Elementary School in Council Bluffs, Iowa, said the project fit in well with the mathematics curriculum for her third graders. Fifteen of her students participated in the project.

"We're doing extensions (finding practical applications for skills students learn in class), and I thought this would be good for using technology," Kendall told Education World.

The Edison students plan to put the data in graphs and compare results from other schools to try to determine if weather or styles in certain parts of the country had any effect on the number of shoe eyelets. Kendall's students managed to do their count even though they were moved out of their classrooms and into the hallway because of a tornado warning.

Students continued talking about the project two weeks later, Kendall added. "They were very excited -- they liked taking information they gathered in the classroom and using it. And they still are showing me their shoes!"


The Windsor schools' current online project, involving fourth graders, is called A Day in the Life of an Ice Cube and requires students to record how long an ice cube takes to melt. They predict the amount of time it takes a cube to melt and give reasons for their predictions. Schools needed to register by April 12; the data will be available on online by May 4.