Monday, 27 January 2014

Geometry in our World - Middle School Math Project

So I have taught middle school math for many years and one of my goals is always to try to make
connections for the students.  Allow them to realize the importance of mathematics in the creation of our world as well as our current lives.  I have tried a few times to create projects around math in the everyday world and have always felt like they fell flat.  Students seemed to always struggle with the concept of math in our world.  Somehow the Fibanacci Sequence comes out and students become fixated and confused by the aspects of it.  They just could never really build the connection and learn anything. 

This year I decided to try once again, with my head held high and expectations booming to see what I could do with this topic.  I wanted the students to see the beauty of how math has shaped our lives.  I decided to change the focus from all math to just Geometry in our World.  This is a project that I actually had ongoing throughout the entire first term.    I gave them four general topics and allowed them to choose a theme for each topic.  They then had to find out what they could about the topic in that theme and give me 4 examples of their findings.

Here is the link to the criteria: Geometry in our world

We started with circles and where they are in the world.  This lead to many discussions on symbolism and where we most often see circles.  So many students researched how circles have been used in different religious symbols.  It gave them a good understanding of the circle and allowed us to discuss the elements of unity, equal expansion, and efficient space.  Which naturally le
ad to learning how to find the area and circumference as well as radius and pi.  Students also looked at spheres and why trees have rings in them.  Some students even looked at how circles are used in dance as well as why our eyeballs are spheres.  It was definitely the start I was looking for.

We moved onto triangles and the concept of three.  A natural concept that we discussed was how structurally sound triangles are and how they are used in buildings.  This allowed us to look at tripods for cameras, roofs on houses and even the Eiffel Tower.  Other students used different themes with triangles and looked at advertising symbols as well as why triangles show up in cross sections of fruit. 

Next we moved onto the idea of quadritalterals.  Students struggled a bit with this one to start but the ideas came along well.  Students began looking at why most sports fields are quadrilaterals as well as why doors and windows are rectangular.  The design of paper was also looked at and students discovered why having perpendicular corners are important.  Cubism in art was investigated asa well.  The project was looking good.

The last section we looked at was pyramids and tetrahedrons.  Students really looked at me strangely with this one.  They had no idea where to start.  I guided many of them to look at the structure of some elements and many students took a look at how methane is contructed in a tetrahedron fashion.  They pyramids of Egypt were investigated as well as many other popular structures.  This last topic was challenging for many students but through their own research they discovered the relavance of these 3 dimensional solids. 

Each section of the assignment was due about 3 weeks apart.  We studied measurement and geometry in the class at the same time.  Some students struggled to explain the meaning behind the shapes and just described the shape and the item they were studying, while some students really investigated meaning and why the it has to be the shape.  I ended up being quite happy with the results even though I would like to take more time to research with the students on the topics. 

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