Greens Farms Academy is a PreK-12, coed school in Westport, CT

"When are we ever going to use this?" - Making Middle School Math Applicable

"When are we ever going to use this?" - Making Middle School Math Applicable

A popular Pre-Algebra lesson is still a hit with GFA’s sixth and seventh graders. Middle School math teacher Kristen Dee has been helping GFA students apply fractions to real life situations for more than five years. Check out some photos from class this week, and read the origins of the project from Mrs. Dee below:

The age-old question that math teachers get from students is, “when am I ever going to use this.” After 11 years of teaching Pre-Algebra, I feel pretty well equipped with a solid response for most concepts in our curriculum, however, my favorite occurs when we hit our study of fractions. 

See, about five years ago my husband and I bought our house and, in an effort to save money, we decided to try some home renovations on our own. The first thing we tackled was the kitchen cabinets. We stripped, sanded and painted. We re-hung the doors and re-installed drawers. Just when I thought the hard work was over, it was time to add the hardware. I didn’t realize how much my middle school math curriculum would come into play. 

We decided on handles, not knobs, for the cabinets which required some precise measuring, centering and straight up fraction calculations. If we drilled a hole, even a fraction of an inch off, the screws would not align with the handles. Here we were, two adult math teachers on the kitchen floor, converting mixed numbers to improper fractions. Immediately I realized I needed to bring this into my classroom. 

What I love about the Amateur Architect Project is that it requires students to apply fraction calculations in a very realistic way. The students use foundational skills relevant to architects (and homeowners) such as measuring, calculating and sketching. They also practice the Habits of Mind that we focus on in math classes throughout GFA- Communicate, Be Flexible, Collaborate, Persist and Make Connections. By following a set of directions, they sketch a street, curb, house and garage and they have a great time doing it!

I truly hope that maybe someone in my class will be inspired to pursue a career in architecture, but at the very least, I hope all of my students think of me when they install hardware in their first home.