Hands-on learning all part of making geometry a life-lesson in new high school class environment.
A new class at Pratt High has sparked the interest of 21 students who want to apply math to the real world. Geometry in Construction is taught by the husband-wife duo, Tim and Melissa Rector, both teachers at Pratt High.
The Geometry in Construction class is held over two periods of every day, alternating between “math day” and “construction day” each day. Students who take the class get both a geometry and construction credit, as well as hands-on experience with geometry in the real world.
“This class was designed to teach geometry concepts while simultaneously teaching construction concepts and how the two relate and work together,” Melissa said.
The Rectors got the idea to start the class when Melissa received a flyer from a math and construction teacher in Colorado about a training for the curriculum. Once Melissa got Tim on board, the two shared it with administration. They said the administration has been very supportive in the process of making the class.
“Mr. Schmidt (the Assistant Superintendent) loved the idea and immediately got us signed up to attend the training,” Melissa said. “It was held over 4 days in Olathe, KS and was attended by other math and CTE teachers from across Kansas as well as the US.”
In making lesson plans for the class, the pair have realized how differences in words between geometry and construction could be a barrier for students to understand the relationship between the two.
“While planning lessons, we sometimes get frustrated with each other knowing we are trying to teach the same concept but having completely different methods and terminology. It is good for us to see the disconnect so we can overcome the gap and connect math with the real world.”
Melissa loved the idea of the class because it would allow for tactile learners to better understand the material, instead of learning in a traditional classroom.
“Even on math days, we are up, moving around and doing the math,” Melissa said. “They still have homework and a lesson to sit through, but there are many projects used to drive home the point.”
Tim has seen students grow in their problem solving skills, as they have been forced to get outside of their comfort zones and work with each other to complete their projects.
“The kids have to learn to communicate effectively, be dependable, work through differences, contribute and many other employability skills,” Tim said. “Group development is a major component of the class. Learning how to work together to build one project, and accomplish the same goal is a big focus for this curriculum.”
Not only are the students learning, but the Rectors say they are having fun as well.
“We play games to demonstrate many lessons of learning styles, communication styles, and group development; and in the process, we share a lot of laughs,” Melissa said. “It has a very different feel from a typical ‘math’ classroom for sure.”
So far this year, the class has learned about similar figures and scale factors while building a scale model of their capstone project. In the project, Tim has seen the students’ work ethic shine through.
“After completing the scale models, the class discussed the difficulties of the project,” Tim said. “It was encouraging to hear the students come up with struggles of relying on others, organization, keeping on task, taking initiative, not having anything to do, (and) lack of skill or knowledge.”
The students had to learn how to work through their issues; an important skill for kids of this age to learn.
“Instead of just being told these were difficulties,” Tim said, “the students had to experience them and realized the need for effective group work.”
Melissa, like the students, has had to learn through her own difficulties.
“As the math teacher, I struggled at first,” Melissa said. “It seemed like we covered a large amount of material in a short time. In addition, the geometry is re-ordered to match the construction process; not the same order I was used to teaching out of a textbook.”
Despite their struggles, the two consider the class to be a success so far.
“I feel like they have bought into the idea of why they need to learn geometry and how much it is used in everyday life,” Tim said. “Being able to build projects, allows the students to practice the math with a real life project.”
Melissa said the students prefer “construction day,” but she doesn’t think the dread “math day.” Since the class is unconventional, students who may not have had much success in other classes are thriving in this one.
“It gives the students the opportunity to see and appreciate others’ strengths,” Melissa said.
Their goal by the end of the year is to help out the Pratt High business department by creating a full size and operational Mobile Frog Shop. This would allow for the easier sale of Frog Shop merchandise at Pratt sporting events.
The Rectors are excited to continue to teach and grow the class so that even more students decide to sign up. They feel they are making a difference in Pratt High in regards to the math and construction departments.
“We feel we have already accomplished a few goals and look forward to what this can do for students of Pratt High,” Melissa said. “Practicing the math one day and then using that exact math the very next day to complete a project, allows the students to see the relevance of what they learned.”