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

http://www.casperjournal.com/news/article_344c31c8-a2ab-58e1-b175-4903403e8ac8.html

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When math makes sense - Teachers combine math with construction,

cooking classes

By Makayla Moore

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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

Moore

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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

finishing nail.

"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,"

he said.

"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.

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--

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

E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu