“Measure twice, cut once.”
Any carpenter will tell you when building a structure there’s a fail-safe adage, “Measure twice before you cut once.” However, Career Technical Education (CTE) Instructor Tom Moore adds, “When teaching students about precise calculations and angles for building stairs, sometimes getting it wrong is actually OK because, often, that’s how they learn.”
Ten teams of math and career and technical teachers (CTE) paired up at Hendrickson High School in Pflugerville, Texas, August 1-4 at the unique professional development (PD) course for high school teachers – Geometry in Construction (GiC). Offered by The University of Texas Austin Center for STEM Education, Texas Regional Collaboratives (TRC), Texas Education Agency (TEA) and sponsored by FLUOR, the four-day course found teachers combining trigonometry and tools with math skills and sawdust to create model stairs and balsa wood houses.
Taught by the seasoned contextual-learning instructors who created the course Tom Moore, from Loveland, Colorado, and Bill Culver, from Vancouver, Washington – the two take a hands-on approach to their lessons. “After students complete the GiC course, they rarely complain about if and where they will ever use the course knowledge in the ‘real world,’” said Moore. “They start making tangible connections right away.”
The curricula and activities provided to teachers will be used to instruct 9th and 10th graders as a Geometry credit. (Algebra-related instruction is also available.) The year-long lesson plans focus on a variety of topics from the Pythagorean theorem, square roots, angles, volumes, word problems, problem solving, to how to use tools, and more. Measuring accurately is paramount because just “good enough estimates” won’t do in job applications, offers Moore. The class is open to students considering professional or trade careers such as a future engineer, architect, construction manager or drafting, surveying position or any other major as well.
“The valuable life lessons, beyond math and construction, such as finishing the job right, team building and assuring that a project passes inspection,” added Culver is essential to the rigor of the lessons learned.
Hendrickson Geometry High School Teacher in Pflugerville ISD Brittany Matchett has taught the GiC course several times. “When a student has a piece of lumber in his hands, it offers a different construct for measuring a 2×4 from one end to the next,” said Matchett. “They ‘get’ it, which is a powerful lesson of actual experience. In our class, we constructed a real wood, cabin house with plumbing and electrical that was sold to someone who actually lives in it. The proceeds of the sale go to materials for the next year’s class.”