My Geometry class is entering the 3-d part of the year. But instead of watching Avatar, we’re studying Area, Surface Area and Volume. Or at least that’s what the last three chapters in the book are. Thing is, in some ways the book throws a ton of easy pitches to the kids:
Find the surface area of this shape, given only the relevant dimensions and nothing else.
Same thing for volume and everything else. I thought I’d kick them off with a little detour to get them thinking about why we care about things like surface area and some of the problems that arise from surface area calculations as applied to real problems. I told the class that we were going to spend a day doing a little “art appreciation” and with no other introduction started the following slide show of images happily lifted from Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s site.
The slides naturally spark lots of “is this really art??? I could cover this place with stuff!” type sentiment. I took some straw polls like “How many of you think it would be easy to wrap our school building?” a split favoring those who voted “not easy” and then made the easy votes describe how they’d go about getting the school covered. We continued through the projects, discussing issues that seem to come up naturally whether or not they seemed especially mathematical. We stopped to read the press-releases as they were in the order. And by the time we reach the “WWCAJCD?” pyramid slide, they have lots of ideas about a project that might be done and the issues involved in making it happen.
We’ll be working on the project for two more days. Part of my hope is that good questions arise, and that students feel a little more confidence in working out solutions because there isn’t necessarily an answer they can check in the back of their book. This problem has not already been solved.