MakerSpace for Math Class

As the 4th graders embarked on their journey to learn how to find the area and perimeter for triangles and quadrangles, I wondered if there was an activity that they could complete in our MakerSpace to truly have them build, create, critically think, or problem solve something that would put their area and perimeter knowledge to good, real-world use. After meeting with our MakerSpace teacher and finding out that she was truly using her area and perimeter knowledge at home to build her dog a doghouse, we thought, “Let’s have our kids construct doghouses out of cardboard boxes!” 

So often math revolves around the following: 
  • whole group lesson (I am going to show you on the white board how to solve these problems)
  • independent practice (AKA- worksheets)
  • graded assignments 
  • tests
Many times we miss:
  • real-world application
  • true critical thinking (rather than, regurgitation of equations and inputting of numbers to solve a problem)
  • constructing of something by putting that knowledge to the test
When we began the project with our students we simply thought that the objectives would include using area and perimeter to create a doghouse along with collaboration, communication, creative thinking, problem solving, inquiry and so on. However, what came out of the project was so much more than that!
To start, I told the students that we were going to work in groups to construct a doghouse that would house my dog, Macy. The only parameters for the project included the following:
  • students had to give me a blueprint with all sides, base and roof measured out in inches 
  • area and perimeter for each side, roof, and base must be provided
  • doghouse must be big enough to house Macy but not too big (I provided her measurements)
As the students began to create their blueprints, I noticed the variety of methods they set about within their groups to construct the doghouse. Had I passed out a worksheet, they all would have, for the most part, solved the equations the same way, silently at their seats. I would have collected the worksheets, graded them, retaught the lesson to students who did not master the concept and moved on. However, with this assignment, the students were sprawled out on the floor. Some were using rulers to measure out the house, others were using pencil and paper, and many chose to find apps that allowed them to create an actual blueprint on their devices. One of my favorite things that came about with this project was the following conversation that took place with a student:
“Mrs. Read, can the doorway be a circle rather than a rectangle?” (When you assign a MakerSpace project, you must be ready to provide, “Yes and,” answers rather than, “No, you can’t do that,” answers. You must allow your students some freedom to explore and learn.)
“I am not going to say no, but I will warn you of this. I asked that you provide the area and perimeter of each shape you use. I have not taught you how to find the circumference of a circle just yet. Keep that in mind.”
No more than 5-10 minutes later, the student comes back to me with his piece of paper and says, “Mrs. Read, I know you said you hadn’t taught us how to find the circumference of a circle, but I googled it. When I googled it, I discovered that there was a formula. Well, I didn’t understand the formula so I watched a video. After watching a video, I went back to my worksheet, figured out the radius of the circle, and solved for the circumference. Here is my work.”
Ummm… what?! Amazing! Would this kind of thinking every played out had I handed him a worksheet? Nope. 
As the students worked through their constructions, I heard conversations amongst students such as:
“Wait, you measured that side wrong.” “It doesn’t really matter.” “Yes! It absolutely does! If you measure the side wrong, it will throw off all of our calculations when it comes to the area and perimeter! Please measure again.”
“What if instead of making your typical 4-sided doghouse we make a doghouse that is an octagonal shape?” 
Results from the project:
  • higher level thinking
  • extreme collaboration
  • communication
  • critical thinking
  • problem solving
  • inquiry
  • fun
  • hands-on learning
  • authentic learning
  • group work skills
Once the projects were completed, I instructed the student’s to give an “elevator speech” describing their project. (Elevator speech= presenting your topic in about 30 seconds to a minute. Coined the name “elevator speech” because it is about the same amount of time it takes people to ride up or down an elevator.) During their brief speech, they were to try to describe what their group did well and what they needed to work on in the future. After each group presented, I had the students complete a self and peer evaluation to rate how well they worked with their teammates and how well their teammates worked with them.  I confidentially shared the feedback with the students but did not tell them which students voted them which score. 

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