linear data, all of which can be recorded and compared. Area is another opportunity: of sports fields, parking lots, playgrounds, or the school property as a whole. Measuring the footprint or dimensions on the ground of a building is yet another
opportunity. The school itself may provide a site to begin this work. Depending on the building, you may have anything from a simple rectangle to a very complex shape if the school has many wings or extensions. All the angles might be right angles, or perhaps you will find very different angles or curves. Scale drawings are the next opportunity. The challenge of measuring in the field becomes a first step, while the scale drawing calls upon a new set of skills back at a desk or table. The scale drawing also provides a reason for doing the measuring and a record of what has been accomplished. What scale works for the paper or display space you may have? What scale allows for details to be added? What scales do architects and builders use?
At a Building Site
If you are fortunate enough to be able to visit a house under construction with a group of students, there are endless measurement oppor- tunities there, both on the ground and in three dimensions. If the building is a rectangle, how did the builder determine those right angles to begin with?
Math and Community Events
Last fall, we took a group of fourth graders to see a house going through a different phase of life. It was cut apart and moved in pieces to a new location. The measurement and data possibilities were more than we could capture as house sections went up in the air and down onto trucks. Almost everything we measured and drew of that house could have been done by visiting it when it was whole and on the ground, but who would want to miss seeing part of a classmate’s bedroom swinging through the air? Our actual mea- surements were limited by the heavy equipment and safety precautions. We had to esti- mate some dimensions and the math was certainly secondary to the excitement of seeing a house lifted into the air in pieces. One could call this an opportunity to study an event in a community, or a writing
opportunity, or a chance for video or photography. All of that is possible. The point here is that we also need to consider the options for math and data collection in as many settings as possible. This gives mathematics an element of practicality that is often not apparent to students in a classroom.
With all this measurement, there is always an opportunity to use metric units instead of the English or “customary” units that are now customary only in the United States. To do this without confusion, give students tools that are all-metric, so they are work- ing with only one scale at a time (rather than tools that have both scales which could get confused).
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