Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day Thirty-Seven: Math Teacher Design Kits

Good math is like your first bike. There's a moment when, you suck a deep breath in. Exhale. Inhale. Then you're off, knees a little shaky, pedaling like the wind, hoping you won't fall again. Desperate not to fall again, then hoping you'll fall again just to take the nervous butterflies out of your stomach, and suddenly it clicks. You realize in the back of your mind, "I am riding a bike." Then it becomes a more confident, "Yes, I am riding a bike." And finally a mental cheer "I AM RIDING A BIKE. ME. "

You never forget that moment. Your muscles burn the memory into themselves. Math is just like that. Once you get the concept, your mind prints it deep inside. There for your own enjoyment, to be dusted off and ridden any sunny day.

Math, like riding a bike or driving a car, is a concept, a set of rules. Rules that can free you. It's how you use it that's important. And like a riding a bike, it's very simplicity causes it to be frequently overlooked. Lawmakers who quote the importance of math, often miss that like bikes, math comes in different flavors. While the action is the same, the delivery may vary. What fits one person, may be a total disaster for another.

These past two weeks, I was asked to talk about high school math algebra and geometry that I use on a daily basis as a professional designer to provide a different perspective from the traditional engineer and science guest lecturers at NC State. It was a great cross-over of perspective. Several of the teachers asked if I would be interested in designing kits for their students to create something they could actually make and after some prototyping and tweaking, NC State's STEM office and I are looking at collaborating this fall on a series of videos and kits for teachers to use math to design custom fashion creations to take home. We are working out the details now, I will be able to tell you more as it progresses. My hope in doing this is that teachers get a practical real world application and the students learn how make math work for them. It is especially helpful for those more creative types.

We will be covering making custom boots, wallets, belts, bags, gloves, and hats. You may follow for free on the STEM site or youtube. If you would like to try your own hand (or someone you love hands), you are welcome to order the kits for $20 each off Etsy:

Our first kit is called the Algebra Tote and features all the tools necessary to make a full-sized take home tote bag and is divided up into 3 easy lesson plans. Ideally it's meant for use on a sewing machine and takes about an hour and a half total, but it can also be done by hand:

Part One: Designing your bag, point and line graphing
Part Two: Finding Area
Part Three: Finding Volume

Each section is geared to take 30 min, and your total time to teach the entire plan will range from 1-3 hrs. depending on skill level.

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