Friday, September 07, 2007

A Great Math Lesson

It's nice to know I'm not the only classroom teacher out there who encouraged kids to write poetry in math. Read on!
Risk taking, discovery and making math relevant were the goals she set for herself. The project that earned her the presidential award had all of that.

The point of the lesson was that the area of a rectangle can vary while the perimeter remains constant. But rather than say that, she let the students discover it.

Working in teams, students had to develop a plan for a dog named "Scruffy" whose owners decided that he spent too much time lounging on their deck. They wanted him to get more exercise, but in a safe environment. To that end, they had purchased 32 meters of fencing.

The project included multiple tasks and analysis, including pricing the cost of fencing, writing poems about area and perimeter, and assessing the pros and cons of different rectangular shapes for Scruffy's pen.

A long, rectangular 15-meter-by-1-meter pen, for example, would allow Scruffy to run for distance. A square pen, with eight meters on each side, would provide him with more area.

Part of the beauty of the project was that there was no right answer, just lots of options, all of which dealt with math in a practical way.

Students also had to interview their parents and report on how area and perimeter played a role in everyday life - who was having a carpet installed, who was fencing in a backyard.

A classic response came from one student who said when he asked his mother about perimeter she told him the rule in their house was that "Daddy has to stay outside the perimeter of the kitchen when I'm cooking."
Read the entire article, entitled A Heralded Math Teacher Reflects on Lessons Learned, for more insights and inspiration.

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