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Construction Week

If your classroom is anything like mine, then the week before spring break is a nightmare.  The kids are antsy and several parents pull their students out early to get a jump-start on their vacations.  My first year teaching I gave a major test on the day before spring break:  Big Mistake.  It was awful trying to get students to make it up when they returned and of course, they didn’t remember anything. 

So, for the last few years I have taken a new approach to the week before spring break, at least in my Geometry classes.  I make it construction week.  No, not building, but compass and straightedge constructions.  I decided years ago not to teach them as I went because the students can’t remember to bring their compasses to class and I’ve never invested in a classroom set.  So I put all the basic constructions in one week. 

On Monday, I introduce the idea of constructions and let them play with the compass to get used to it.  I’m always amazed with how much practice it takes to get a smooth circle.  I let the students be creative and I teach them how to make a flower with the compass.  They love it.

On Tuesday, I introduce them to this Math Open Reference Website.  I print off copies of the worksheets that accompany the website and hand them out to each student.  The students are put in groups of 2 or 3 and given one laptop per group.  They use the website to complete each construction.  There is a java applet that shows them how to do each construction step by step.  There is also a list of the steps with pictures below the applet.  This allows students to go back and repeat the steps as often as they need to so they can master the constructions.  I assign 8 different basic constructions involving line segments and angles.  At the end of the week, I give them a quiz on constructions.

For the students that are absent during construction week, I assign them a project when they return.  They have to use the website to create a book explaining the constructions and provide step by step directions.  I also allow them to use YouTube for this assignment. 

At the end of the week with the laptops, I was surprised and a little disturbed with the number of students that had a difficult time following written, step by step directions.  I explained to them that this is not just a math skill, but a real life skill.  There have been and will be many Christmas Eves’ spent in tears and frustration trying to interpret directions on how to assemble a bike or toy for my children.  And don’t get me started on Ikea’s picture directions…

Categories: General, Geometry
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