Engaging students: Finding the area of a square or rectangle

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Trent Pope. His topic, from Geometry: finding the area of a square or rectangle.

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How could you as a teacher create an activity or project that involves your topic?

On this website I saw that the Kelso High School GIC students went out and built a home as a class project. They were able to get a $13,000 grant from Lowe’s Home Improvement and blueprints from Fleetwood Homes to go out and build a physical house. I like the idea of having students use geometry in a real world application, as a teacher I would bring this idea to paper. Students would design and create blueprints for their dream house using squares and rectangles. I would start by giving them the total area their house will be. For example, I would tell them to make the blueprints for a 400 square foot house. They could have anywhere from 5 rooms to 20 rooms in their house. They will be responsible for showing the measurements for each room. After creating the layout of the house and calculating the areas of each room, students will be given a set amount of money to spend on flooring. They will then calculate the cost to put either carpet, wood, or tile in each room. This is to have students decide if they would have enough money to have a large room and if so what flooring would be best. There are other aspects you can add to this project to make it more personalized, but as teachers we just want to make sure we are having students find the area of square and rectangles.



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How has this topic appeared in the news?

There are many instances of where area made the news. I found multiple websites that talk about how schools are having building projects for geometry and construction classes. These students are building homes from 128 square feet to 400 square feet. Teachers are having students make these homes so that they can see that geometry is in the real world. By having a range of sizes, students have to adjust their calculations. When creating a house or mobile home you need to accommodate for walking space in each room. In order for students to know if there is enough space, they must find the area of each room. Teachers are using this project because blueprints for houses only use squares and rectangles, making it easier for students to practice solving for area of these shapes. This is just the start of teachers making the concept of area more applicable.



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How have different cultures throughout time used this topic in their society?

The topic of finding area of squares and rectangles is used throughout many cultures. In the Native American culture along with todays, we see it in growing crops. A farmer must know how big their crop is so they can figure out how much food they will have at harvest. An instance used by many cultures is creating monuments in the shape of square pyramids. In order to build it the right way, you must know the area of the bottom base to build on top of that. A final use of it in our culture is in construction, when we decide how we want to build a building. The concept of area is something that many cultures use today because of how easy it is to calculate. This creates a great way for cultures that are less educated to become familiar with the same concepts as other cultures.


Geometry in Construction class finishes building first home. n.d. <http://tdn.com/news/local/geometry-in-construction-class-finishes-building-first-home/article_74143492-d7a9-11e2-995a-001a4bcf887a.html&gt;.
Tiny House Project. n.d. 6 10 2017. <http://design.northwestern.edu/projects/profiles/tiny-house.html&gt;.


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