4.15.2012

Surface Area Tin Man Project

I've never taught my area unit very well or went beyond basic area formulas that students have been learning for years. This year I heavily focused on composite areas and perimeters, surface area, and volume.

I did my first real project of the year (um, my career) on surface area.

Each pair of students built a tin man out of boxes, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, Styrofoam balls, and cones. They had to use a formula sheet to first measure the surface area of the parts, showing all of their work for each part. Next they had to tape the parts together. The tin man had to have all parts attached and be sitting or standing on its own. Then I would give them the exact amount of foil they measured for, no more and no less. They had to cover their tin man as completely as possible without running out of tinfoil or having extra leftover.

After their project was complete, I had them answer twelve reflection questions about the project. I also created a rubric that they used to self-assess and then I used the same rubric to assess them as well. This was the first time I've ever used a rubric myself, and also the first time having students self-assess using a rubric.




 

The students worked hard and really enjoyed the project. It was complete insanity while it was happening but the students were so engaged and surprised by how little their tinfoil was and yet it still was enough. They finally figured out that math actually works. 

I really didn't have the time to spend on this but measurement is a weakness in our curriculum throughout all courses and plus, they deserved it. This was my big crazy geometry class of 24 students who all hated the class because it was so loud and chaotic. I wanted them to have one good memory of this year and this class and I think I succeeded. I actually got this idea from my English teacher bestie who did it in high school. She hated math but that really stuck with her and I want to do something each year with my students that will stick with them that long as well.

I felt like they answered the reflection questions honestly and thoughtfully. My objective  was for them to summarize their learning throughout this process. I think it was a good way for them to switch from active, hands-on builders to serious, reflective thinkers. I also think I need to add something into the rubric about how much work they did. In one instance, a girl did all the work and the boy was just getting supplies and doing whatever she said. But, he ended up with a higher grade than she did because he did better on his reflection questions. She was upset and I knew she would be. On one hand I understand. On the other hand, I clearly explained the things I would be grading on so she can't really argue with me. But I hated that she felt I was being unfair.

Overall, the project was a success and I will definitely be doing it again. My algebra I and II classes are totally jealous now and want to build one as well. Some students suggested that next time we create accessories as well or maybe even a heart. Cuteness.

Good times...

22 comments:

  1. Thank you - I stole this as will many others.

    I teach in hs - sophomores (right triangle trig, parabolas and imaginary numbers, circles, piecewise functions, exponents, and statistics [normal curves]) and juniors (matrices, polynomials, conics, logarithms, z-scores) and we are supposed to do this with projects when they do not have the foundation knowledge.

    We are to turn their educational process over to them - they talk about TV.

    I am struggling to make it relevant. I love math and don't think that conics - or logarithms - are the least bit relevant to someone who will never take calculus and thinks math is not necessary to their future.

    Just blowing off steam.

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  2. This is an awesome idea! Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Ricochet,
    Try turning over their educational process a little bit at a time- while you're still in control. I struggle with relevance too but let's focus on the learning more. How can we teach them to learn- observe patterns, make predictions, think critically, take risks, justify their thinking, etc? That's what remains relevant even when the math is not.

    Jennifer,
    If you try this I would love to hear about it!

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  4. Love this idea! It almost makes me wish I taught Geometry!

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  5. What a great idea! I love the idea of giving them something they'll really remember, too. Brilliant.

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  6. Did any pad their totals to make sure there was enough foil?

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  7. Mama,
    From what I noticed, students rounded up on their measurements instead of being precise. That's really the only 'padding' I noticed. I wish I could have graded it on how much foil they used but I don't know how to keep kids from just wrapping it again to use up foil or throwing extra foil away or covering gaps with duck tape.

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  8. OMG, I LOVE it!

    You can keep kids from "cheating" by giving them exactly one period to wrap it, with precisely pre-measured foil?

    Mimi

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  9. how/from where did you collect the required materials? thinking of doing this on short notice and wondering from where I could gather all the bits . . . perhaps just styrofoam pieces from a craft store . . . hmm

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  10. Jason,
    I just asked the teachers in the school and other friends to save theirs for me. I bought the styrofoam balls from Hobby
    Lobby and made the cones out of paper. I bought the duct tape and tinfoil from the Dollar Tree.

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  11. I am super excited to try this. The reflection is 11 questions and I wondered if I missed one. Also, why DID we divide by 18? I must need to do the project too. Could you please help. Thank you so much.

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  12. Danielle,
    I think I counted the first part where they have to list the formulas they used as the extra question.

    We divided by 18 because the roll of aluminum foil is 18 inches long. So that would change depending on whatever length of tinfoil you use.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. :)

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  13. I love this project! I'll link to it on my blog.

    I agree with you on the tough situation with the one student. It can be hard, but you were upfront about the standards for grading and it was up to her to meet those standards and do what she could to get the best grade possible. Knowledge is important, but you also have to pay attention and follow directions. Including a part about how much you contributed to the project is a good idea!

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  14. Forgive me if this is obvious, but - was it tricky for your kiddos to wrap the styrofoam balls in foil? I can imagine that particular step might be frustrating. Tips?

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  15. I don't remember that one being any harder than the rest, although most students said the wrapping was the hardest part. I didn't really offer any help on that part. They struggled but they knew it was something they do so they didn't give up. Nothing really sticks out as far as tips except to cut as little as you can.

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  16. How much time did you allow to complete?I think that this is a great idea for a project.This year I have Geometry A & B and Algebra 2. I am always looking for project ideas that can translate to practical knowledge in Geometry.

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    1. I think it took about 5 class periods.

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    2. I like the way u taught

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  17. I love this project! How many rolls (estimate) of tin foil did you need for all the groups to do the project?

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    1. I think I went to the Dollar Tree and bought 8 or 10. I don't really remember but I still have some rolls left over so it didn't even take as much as I was thinking.

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I'm not sure where your comment went but class periods are about 47 minutes long,

      Thanks for reading!

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