Architects in the Making — Using Mathematical Concepts in Buildings

Students in Ms. Lee’s 4th grade math class at the North Tustin Campus were recently able to apply mathematical concepts they’ve learned to a real-world scenario in which they designed their own buildings.

The “Dear Sir/Madam Architect” assignment asked students to help Ms. Lee decide what type of learning complex she should build and how much it would cost her to do so. They were each given a $10 million budget and had specific requirements (in terms of what the building must contain) to which they needed to adhere. Each student designed a building that would serve a different purpose (e.g., literature, technology, music, video game design, etc.) than that of his or her peers.

While creating the layouts and overall construction plans for their buildings, Ms. Lee’s students incorporated mathematics skills they’ve acquired in addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, critical thinking and problem solving, use of a ruler, and modeling on paper. They also put their writing and communications abilities to practice, as each student turned in a final paper and gave a presentation to the class as to why his or her building was the best option for Ms. Lee to select.

Ms. Lee created this particular assignment because it combines various subject matters into one project, allowing students to apply what they’ve learned in real-world situations.

“To see their learning come to life is really important,” she said. “The communities around us are continually growing, and [this project] is really tapping into that and making them realize all that goes in to creating a building or creating a new home.”

The students enjoyed being able to use their creativity to construct their layouts, budget for all of the necessary items they would need inside of their buildings, and plan all of the remaining details that factor in to executing a successful architectural project in the real world.

Fourth-grader Lily J. loves to sing and put her passion to use as she designed a building that is specifically geared toward students wishing to further their musical pursuits — and she applied the math Ms. Lee has taught her this year in doing so.

“We get to use a lot of things that we learned, and we get to use them to build a big and fun building,” Lily said. “We [use rulers to find] the area of things because you have to put them in certain boxes — that’s helped me a lot.”

During this assignment, though students worked separately, they were able to discuss their plans aloud with Ms. Lee and also talk with their peers throughout the entire process. Such a boisterous atmosphere is one Ms. Lee certainly embraces and one that benefited students for this particular assignment.

“We don’t need to have a silent classroom for learning to take place,” she said.

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