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How to Make Middle Schoolers Fall in Love with Math

As a middle school math teacher who loves learning and helping students fall in love with math, I struggled to engage my students at the beginning of the year. I learned that they LOVE projects and would do anything to apply their learning from class to real life. I spent a quarter planning an engaging project for all my middle schoolers. After going back to my learning as a student and what engaged me, I thought about the time I helped design our school amphitheater. So I went to my amazing expert, Chad Wallace, who also happens to be my dad, who is an incredible architect, to pick his brain. After several hours we came up with the idea of Tiny Homes. We would have the students create their own tiny homes.

As I knew my students and I know how much they love competitions, we made this project a competition and it lit a fire under them. They went above and beyond in their design and research. The kickoff event for this project was visiting a tiny home company that builds tiny homes and seeing the process of each stage. Students got to walk into real-life tiny homes and see different designs and different sizes and had an opportunity to ask questions about how they create their own tiny homes. After the kick-off event, students were quickly inspired to create their own tiny homes and work with their groups to create a unique tiny home. I invited experts to come into my classroom and help students with their design work, giving them feedback on their blueprints and their digital designs. They asked them questions about their budget, and they were very surprised to see how inexpensive or expensive a tiny home could be, depending on the type of supplies you wanted to use.

After several weeks of feedback protocols, revising work, writing papers, creating budgets, and finalizing their tiny home design. The students had to present their tiny homes at to a panel of architects who gave them feedback and praised their amazing work. The panelists who were experts in their field (architects, designers, engineers, interior designers, and project managers) were blown away by the ability these students had and their creativity. Students share with the panelists that they learned so much about applying math in real life and got to create something really cool. I was so proud of the amazing work the students created and the bravery they had to present in front of adults whom they didn’t know.


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