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Block Scheduling For Math Projects

February 15, 2014

AM OutsideOver the last couple of years our school has been able to schedule grade level math classes back to back. This has been a real advantage when designing projects to solidify and extend student learning of math concepts.

For grade 8 this means we have 2 “sets” of grade 8 classes composed of 3 blocks of grade 8 classes occurring at the same time. When completing our last unit on Nets, Surface Area and Volume of 3-D Objects, teachers were able to offer students three choices of projects:

  • poster  – develop a poster including nets and calculations for surface area and volume of a compound (right prism and cylinder) 3-D object
  • robot – create and determine the surface are and volume of a 3-D robot
  • SketchUp – use SketchUp to create a Computer Assisted Design (CAD) house and pool. Determine the amount of paint for the walls of the house, shingles for the roof and water to fill the pool.

Each of these projects meet the curricular outcomes for the course however, one has its own challenges and appeal to students.

For teachers any one of these projects is a great way to assess and extend student learning. The advantage of block scheduling has been to have one teacher assigned to each project and focus on the teaching, support and assessment of only one project.  When using a program like SketchUp it can be daunting to learn the program and teach it however, in our case only one of us was required to know the program well. This creates more of a willingness to take on more than one project and also to focus on areas that teachers are interested. A benefit for both students and teachers.

For grade 7 we have 2 “sets” of grade 7 classes composed of 2 blocks running concurrently. Our latest projects focus on enhancing student learning of the properties of circles and area (circles, triangles and parallelograms). The two projects for these concepts are:

  • SketchUp – design a 3-D water park, moon base or another structure
  • Lego Mindstorms – program a robot vehicle to create a path and calculate the are

The block scheduling approach has been a win-win for students and teachers. Students can choose their challenge, teachers can focus on doing one project well and providing extension. The big win for me personally is working with students who are not normally in my class. I am looking forward to more projects in the future as we continue to develop 21st Century Learning Skills.

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