Date: May 4, 2013 3:20 PM
Author: Jerry P. Becker
Subject: When math makes sense - w/ cooking, consruction
From The Casper Journal [Wyoming], Monday, April 29, 2013. See
When math makes sense - Teachers combine math with construction,
By Makayla Moore
PHOTO SIDEBAR: The new math and construction program at Transitions
Learning Center applies math concepts by building. Heather Bishop
(left) of Frontier Middle School marks a measurement on a board after
Chrysler Parks of Transitions explained the process. Photo by Makayla
How many frustrated math students have thrown up their hands and
said, "When am I ever going to use this anyway?" It's a common
refrain that most math teachers hear repeated time and again. There's
a new program at Transitions Learning Center, pioneering the useful
application of math.
Math teacher Dwight Burrows and construction teacher Rob Hill have
combined their classes, creating a demonstrated use for the concepts
that they're teaching. They're building a bridge between math and
construction, and the students are doing better than ever.
Burrows teaches math concepts such as angles, slope and parallel
lines first, followed by Hill demonstrating how those concepts apply
to construction. The students have built sheds, fences and even
remodeled a garage. They're responsible for everything, from figuring
out the quantity of supplies they'll need, to hammering in the final
"We haven't changed the program, haven't changed the curriculumm
we've just reorganized," Burrows said. "It's the same math class, the
same test and the same standards." But the grades keep going up, and
retention of learning is at an all-time high. Burrows tested his
class, asking them what the slope of a roof they had put on a shed
was. Hands shot up, and the correct answer was given.
"When you're cutting the angles with a saw and applying slope to a
roof, you remember it better," Hill said. "It's teaching them more
than just math and construction, though. They're learning teamwork
and work ethic too."
The program partners with construction classes from Casper College as
well as students from construction classes in middle school. "They
get to work both up and down that way," Hill said.
To watch a group of students who don't see themselves as teachers
apply the skills they've learned and teach the younger students has
made it worthwhile for Hill and Burrows. "It shows what they've
learned and are now capable of teaching," Hill said.
The difference in the students is evident. They're walking tall and
rightfully proud of what they've built. Burrows said that every
teacher looks for that light that comes on when a student really
understands and he's seeing a lot more lights these days.
"I had the lowest grade in the pre-test, it was a 22 and now I've got
a 77. That's much better," said Angel Coleman. "I still don't like
math, but I can understand it."
"I didn't really know what the class was about, but it makes math
simpler by applying it to real-life situations and it's just
mind-blowing," said Johnathan Arket.
Chrysler Parks said he joined the program in order to help understand
math better and has enjoyed the experience. "It helps you understand
what you're learning by going out in the field and doing hands-on,"
"This is the idea the district is trying to build the CAPS [Center
for Advanced and Professional Studies] on. Integrated learning, and
it's working here," Burrows said.
This is the first of many classes that will be based on integrated
learning at Transitions. There's a Financial Literacy class that's in
the works and Burrows is anxious to take his math curriculum into the
cooking classes. "There's math all over there," he said.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244