EUREKA, Mo. — Every week in geometry class, more than two dozen Eureka High School students stow their backpacks and cellphones in their lockers and don hard hats and goggles.
Instead of sitting at desks, they slice wood with power saws, measure wood to be cut and hammer together the skeleton of a new tiny house — a fully habitable dwelling, just 26 feet long — all with little teacher help.
In less than two months, they have almost finished building the entire frame of a 14-by-26-foot house from the ground up.
We’re not getting results that we’d like to get for our students, so we’re looking for additional opportunities that could make math relevant for students. This program does that.
Mike LaChance, Ritenour School District’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
“You actually have to try in this class,” said Tucker Burt, 14, a freshman. “It’s a lot more fun. It’s a lot more hands-on. It’s a lot more interesting.”
Eureka High in suburban St. Louis County, Missouri, is one of more than 400 high schools nationwide and three in the St. Louis area that have adopted a “Geometry in Construction” class, a class developed by two Colorado teachers who wanted students to take math out of the textbook and into real life. Students in these classes use geometry to build their own tiny houses or other construction projects.
Asked their opinion of the class, students said they like being able to work outside with their hands “instead of just sitting in the classroom.” They said they know the math they’re learning is important and useful because they’re building something real.
“It’s not going to waste,” said Morgann Beatty, 15, a Eureka High sophomore.
School officials echoed those sentiments. They are looking for ways to get kids to care about math, at a time when the U.S. ranks an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math on international tests.
“We’re not getting results that we’d like to get for our students, so we’re looking for additional opportunities that could make math relevant for students,” said Mike LaChance, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the Ritenour School District in St. Louis County, which also adopted the geometry class. “This program does that. It adds relevancy to mathematics. If it’s something that they created, something that they’ve done, they’re going to remember that content far better than if they memorized it for a test.”
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