Teaching Math via Architecture

So many times math teachers are posed with the question, “Am I really going to use this when I become an adult?” Those may not be the exact words, but the concept is still the same. Children often don’t see the connection of advanced math in the real world.

I loved math as a child, and I still do. Even though I love it, I still didn’t make the connection initially. I am a natural problem solver. I love figuring things out. I just figured I would use math the way my mother used Sudoku, word find and crossword puzzles to relax. Calculus and Geometry would be my therapeutic release…. Weird, I know. (In college, I would take math classes just to boost my GPA. I am a total nerd, and I LOVE IT!)

One of the things I discovered through the Next Great Architects after school program is there is a great opportunity to connect math to this real world profession of architecture.  It is not direct like the classroom setting, but more a subtle, passive introduction. Depending on the grade of the students, math concepts can range from learning how to read a scale (understanding measurements and ruler conversions) to computing areas and slopes (square footages and pitches).

Children learn at least four different ways. Visual learners need demonstrations. They need to see it in order to internalize it. Aural learners need explanations. They need to hear it.  Verbal learners need words. They need to read and/or write the information. Last but not least, Tactile or Kinesthetic learners need activities. They need to do it.

From my experience classroom math was mostly aural and verbal.  There were also visual components sprinkled throughout the text books in pictures, graphs, and diagrams. Introducing architecture as a vehicle to teach math in a more visual and tactile way could be a great supplement to the typical classroom approach. For example, computing area of a rectangle in the classroom would be instructed as multiplying length times width. In architecture, that rectangle is now a bedroom and the area is the size the carpet needs to be in order to cover the entire floor.  And for the tactile learners, modeling that bedroom to include a scaled piece to represent the carpet would give them something to hold on to literally and figuratively.

Using architecture to teach math is not only fun for children, but it will help them independently answer the question, “Will I really use this math when I grow up?”