For the months of November and December we worked on the concepts of surface area and volume in math class. Throughout the unit students engaged in inquiry based classes where rather than providing them a formula, I gave them shapes on grid (or plain white) paper and asked them to use their prior knowledge to synthesize a formula. From this, students were able to take 3D shapes and produce formulas to calculate the surface area and volume of various objects.
It was really neat for me to see how students rose to the occasion when I took on a complete facilitator role and allowed them to explore their learning and make connections in a way that made sense to them.
To round off the unit, students were given a Dog House Building Project. This project was further modified for some students, who rather than building a scale model built actual dog houses. Students were asked to calculate the surface area and volume of their dog house and the cost of building it. Additionally, I have students who are working at around a grade 5 level in math and they too were able to take part in the project, but received a project with different calculation requirements (Modified Doghouse Project).
It was really cool to see students inquire through the unit and reach their learning in different ways and then organically come to very individualized dog house models. More importantly, it was amazing to see students that stereotypically aren’t expected to succeed flourish. In particular, one student who despises math was able to completely build a dog house on wheels, complete with paint, door and a special roof coating. He told me that he was going to give it to his mom for her dog. Even more amazing? He did all the math! WIth support, he still did it all, he calculated the area of each pice, the total surface area, the volume and the cost to make it – as cool as his dog house was, it was this moment that gave both my principal and I goosebumps.
This is why we teach.
Until next time,