Geometry is a branch of math that lends itself nicely to project-based learning. This lesson will give teachers of different age groups ideas for how they can incorporate projects to show the relevance of geometry in the real world.
Geometry is everywhere in real life, so when teaching the subject, there is no need to reduce it to pages in a textbook or lists of rules to memorize. Teachers of geometry, or shorter geometry units in the middle of larger math curricula, might notice the subfield lends itself wonderfully to project-based learning, or any kind of learning that incorporates authentic engagement with the surrounding world.Students of all ages internalize concepts best when they get a chance to see how they work in action and how they are relevant to real-world situations. Yet it can be challenging to figure out what kinds of projects will help students. They need to make sense of geometric knowledge in ways that are developmentally appropriate, or cognitively and emotionally suited to the needs and abilities of a specific age group.
This lesson will give you some ideas of geometry projects that work for elementary, middle, and high school students. Feel free to modify them to meet the needs and abilities of your particular group of learners.
Elementary School Geometry
Let’s look at an example appropriate for elementary school:Ms.
Diaz is a third-grade teacher who does units with her students on 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional geometry. She likes to incorporate art projects that show the significance of geometric concepts in the real world. Some of the projects Ms.
Diaz does with her students include:
- Creating greeting cards by cutting and gluing together polygons students can name then decorating the cards with other polygons
- Drawing maps of the local community, the school, and the playground, to further discussions of angles, distances, area, and perimeter
- Making origami and discussing the ways that figures are often composed from other shapes
- Sketching scenes outdoors and then discussing the different geometric concepts in nature
- Writing poetry about shapes
Ms. Diaz thinks that a key to doing geometry projects with elementary school students is keeping conversation and questions flowing while students work. She keeps a notebook of the questions her students ask as they take on different geometry projects and tries to address these questions in future lessons and activities.
Middle School Geometry
Now let’s see an example suitable for middle school:Mr. Stein is a seventh grade math teacher who has his students incorporate their conceptual understanding of geometry into an architectural design of their choice.
Students often choose to design their ideal school, to remodel their house, or to design a shopping center or movie theater.Mr. Stein requires his students to justify all of their choices and think about measurements including area, perimeter, and volume as they design. They incorporate what they understand about angles and shapes when they consider both the way doors will work in their design and the ways different pieces of furniture might come together. Students who choose to make the project challenging even include their understanding of the Pythagorean theorem when they consider roofs and irregular floor plans.
At the end of the unit, Mr. Stein has a celebration in which students share their designs and discuss the choices they made as well as reflect on what they have come to understand about the role of geometry in the real world.
High School Geometry
Now for a high school example:Mrs.
Chang is a high school geometry teacher. She finds the following ideas good for engaging high school students:
- Students use concepts of area and volume to design a storage area that will contain as many of their personal belongings as possible. They will think about what packing or boxing strategies are the most efficient.
- Students use what they know about angles and angular relations, as well as perimeter, volume, and area, to design a hypothetical school garden
- Students use what they know about circumference to design a running track with six lanes for their school
Mrs. Chang tries to modify these projects to keep up with student interests, strengths and weaknesses in any given year.
Geometry is a great place to use project-based learning, a type of learning that encourages students to apply concepts and skills to real life situations. Developmentally appropriate projects such as those suggested give students a chance to work at their age and interest level to really internalize their understanding of geometry.