Young ‘architects’ learn rudiments of math

JULIE LANE PHOTO Young ‘architects’ in Michael Cox’s fifth grade class show off their projects that demonstrated not only creativity, but the mathematics they learned to successfully complete their models. They are (from left) Jerry Card, Riley Renault, Emmett Cummings and Olivia Overstreet. Parents will get to view the projects and hear from the students on Friday between 1:15 and 2:30.
Young ‘architects’ in Michael Cox’s fifth grade class show off their projects that demonstrated not only creativity, but mathematics. They are (from left) Jerry Card, Riley Renault, Emmett Cummings and Olivia Overstreet. Parents view the projects and hear from the today  between 1:15 and 2:30.

You can memorize times tables and various mathematical formulas, but fourth and fifth grade math and science teacher Michael Cox thought there must be a better way.He wanted his fifth grade students to not only learn about math, but to create projects demonstrating their knowledge. And that’s how the architecture project came into existence.

For about a month, his 18 students have been engaged in not only planning a community of buildings, but in actually constructing scale models of their plans.

They’re enthusiastic about not only showing off their finished models, but in talking about the process that led from drawing one dimensional pictures to applying their mathematical knowledge to bring their buildings to three dimensional models.

Are they aiming for careers as architects? Not necessarily. But the experience assures that whatever their future goals, they have learned the importance of math and accepted the reality that sometimes, they learned  as much or more from their mistakes as their successes.

Just ask 11-year-old Daria Kolmogorova who readily admits that in creating her mall, she “messed up at first” making it too high. But she was then able to scale back and produce a mall model that includes a food store, organic grocery, restaurant, hotel and even a pool.

“I thought about it over spring break and I had a dream about it,” Ms. Kolmogorova said about the idea. Creating the three dimensional shapes were “really hard,” she said, but she conquered the hurdles, thanks to the math she learned that enabled her to appropriately scale back the original plan.

“If I ever do build it, I will do it with seven members of my class,” she said confidently.

How will she select them?

“The ones that are nicest to me,” she said without a pause.

Frances Regan, 10, built a kindergarten through grade 12 school, but not at all like the school she attends. Ms.

Regan’s school is a hexagon circular structure with courtyard in the center where she imagines students could take breaks and eat lunch.

“Every measurement had to be perfect” so the hexagons would fit together, she said about her most difficult challenge.

“I had to redo it several times,” she said. Was that frustrating?

“It’s much more fun to do it yourself,” she said about working out the difficulties.

Is architecture her goal someday? Probably not, she said, but she might like to teach math or architecture.

Morgan Watroux, 11, loved the architecture project because she has always wanted to design her own house. That was her motivation.

For Emmett Cummings, 10, it was his uncle’s B&B on Chase Creek that “inspired me.” He had considered adding a swimming pool, but ultimately abandoned that idea.

Is Riley Renault, 11, following in the footsteps of developer and entrepreneur Donald Trump? Just as many of Mr. Trump’s buildings bear his name, so Renault Industries, a manufacturer of video games, carries Riley’s name.

He thought a regular building with square and rectangular pieces would be “too boring.” Instead, he created an imaginative structure that was a real challenge, both because of its height and placement of various pieces that unless carefully thought out, could topple.

But in Mr. Renault’s hands, the completed structure appears totally secure and imaginative.
Dayla Reyes, 10, built a movie theater because “everybody needs a movie,” she said. “Every measurement had to be exact,” she said. “I think it looks awesome.”

What was the best part of the project for Ms. Reyes?

“It’s like learning stuff in a fun way,” she said.

Olivia Overstreet, 10, tackled a hotel.

“I wanted to make it different,” she said.

“It was really fun, but making the floor plan was difficult and I kept messing up,” Ms. Overstreet said. Whatever her difficulties in the process, her finished hotel was an attractive structure. She topped her hotel with a ball-like structure holding a flag because “I thought it looked cool,” she said. Indeed, it does.

From Evan Schack, 10, came an animal shelter. Years ago, he visited an animal shelter and “It stayed in my mind for some reason,” he said.

Staying with the pet theme, Lily Page, 11, constructed a pet store. Paying attention to details, she put in lights around the structure and even thought to put gutters on the building.

Animals also got Emma Martinez’s attention as she created a shelter and day care center.

Jerry Card, 11, also attended to details in constructing an EMS Station because his mom is an EMT and his dad was one previously. His structure was adorned with the important sirens and lights.

“It’s fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work,” he said.

And Pacey Cronin, 11, thinks the future holds military service for him, so he built a military base.

“I want to be in the Army,” he said.

To create a stucco-like texture for the outside of the building, Mr. Cronin used glue and then sprinkled sand on it. It worked.

Isabella Fonseca, 11, likes astronomy and thought the community needed a university to study that science.

“I like science,” Ms. Fonseca said. But the hardest part of her project was creating hexagonal prism that required a lot of practice to get right.

“They exceeded my expectations,” Mr. Cox said about his students and the projects that will be on display for parents Friday afternoon between 1:15 and 2:30. The math they had to employ included geometry, something they typically wouldn’t learn until the seventh grade, Mr. Cox said.

Will next year’s fifth graders be challenged to become young architects.

No, Mr. Cox said. He likes to keep his teaching fresh, so he’s on the hunt for other ideas that will teach the skills his students need to learn while engaging them in creative projects.

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