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Riverside students in the dog house

May 23, 2011

PLYMOUTH — Riverside Intermediate School teacher Tara Sharp has learned over her 15 years of teaching that the best way to keep students engaged is by showing how math relates to the real world.
This year, Sharp challenged her 16 advanced math students, whom she divided into two groups, to build dog houses. Sharp said she developed the project plans three years ago and included them into the program for the first time last year. She said this year the project is being done on a much larger scale.
Sharp said the students began the project by researching online to find out the correct dimensions of a dog house, organizing information on spreadsheets, and creating business letters.
“They are using the math skills in our curriculum, but also building on them,” she said.
Helping with the project is local builder Eric Early of Hammer Enterprises. Early took time to make four videotapes of instructions that the students have to follow. He used terms such as “16 on center” to acquaint them with terminology. Periodically, he has had phone conferences with students to help answer their questions.
To keep the project going, the students had to learn about identifying the correct pitch of a roof, calculate estimated waste, calculate surface area  and apply math skills like “hypotenuse.”
“We had to go back to the drawing board a couple of times.” Sharp said.
She explained one of the most important things they learn is how to cooperate with each other and how to find answers themselves. Sharp said one of the measurements was a 17.9 inch calculation.
“They came to me first to give them the answer as how to figure it out since it’s not on a tape measure,” Sharp said.
When she queried them on how they could find the answer, she said they went straight to the computer.
Right now the students are in the cutting phase of the project. She said Early is making the actual cuts for safety reasons, but the students will be sanding, staining, and painting the pieces this week.
To finance the project, the students are selling raffle tickets. So far they have collected $250 and are hoping to double that amount before the actual drawing June 7.
Sharp said she is very appreciative of the donation of all the materials by Carter Lumber.
“This is the second year that they have donated what we needed,” Sharp said. “We are trying to make math more real for the kids.”

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