Some students love math; they have a fondness for algebra and a knack for the accompanying formulas and equations. Others take math as one would a dose of cough syrup—unpleasant but necessary. No matter where they fall along that continuum, middle-school students at Y.A.L.E.’s Mansfield Township campus always enjoy the hands-on math applications from Mr. Jason James.
Experienced in the home-improvement arena, Mr. James conceives of hypothetical do-it-yourself building, repair or design projects requiring the recall of math skills taught in the classroom. After completing a sample-project in school with their groups and under the watchful eye of their teacher, each student sets out on an independent mission! Information gathered at home is combined with a class trip to Home Depot for any necessary materials and prices. The assignment culminates in each student producing a poster that demonstrates real-life plans for a real-life project.
A painting project required students to measure a room at home (including walls, windows and doors); calculate its surface area, as well as the amount and type of paint required; find prices for needed supplies; and provide a total cost of the home-improvement venture. Another undertaking involved fencing in a backyard—measuring the yard’s outline; identifying a supply list; calculating total quantities and costs; and drafting a blueprint of the completed theoretical fence.
As is often the case, small unexpected benefits arise from creative lessons. Community trips to Home Depot not only involved math skills, but also required organization and planning, as well as social competencies when needing to ask store personnel for help. Furthermore, store representatives have spontaneously volunteered their time to demonstrate some home-improvement skills, such as laying tile and using different tools. The home improvement projects bring math to life and give Y.A.L.E.’s Mansfield students a glimpse into its practical applications.