This is the second post in a series about ideas for learning in a Makerspace.

Learning Idea #2: Show math in action and application.

Math is really useful for making things. But using math in making is not so straightforward. Christian Schunn argues that while Math has become more application oriented, the rest of STEM (Science, Technology, and Engineering) have become more qualitative (see his paper on pages 111-119 of PDF). Schunn proposes three solutions:

  1. Recognize and build upon disciplinary differences in the use of mathematics;
  2. Identify and reinforce/use existing mathematics;
  3. Foreground and teach one piece of new mathematics in a given month.

The “Math-in-CTE” (Career and Technical Education) project has developed a seven-element framework for bridging the gap from applied math to the more traditional school math concepts. The idea is to be explicit about where math shows up in authentic situations, and then generalize back to the more abstract concepts.

Fraction Blocks used at Pittsburg HS

It might also be useful to build math manipulatives using the tools and materials in a Makerspace. Manipulatives can make abstract concepts easier to visualize, such as fraction blocks for learning how to read a ruler (above are a school-built set; below left is a commercial set), geoboards for learning about geometry and patterns (below middle), or algebra tiles for transitioning to higher math (below right).


The goal is to present math to students as just another tool that’s good to know how to use. Towards that end, there are lots of resources that connect math to authentic situations. Some examples include math books written for:

There are surely many other books that will be useful for connecting math and making. Let us know your favorites in the comments!

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3 Responses to Learning Ideas: Math in action

  1. Tom Hoffman says:

    Do you know about the Alexandria Seaport Foundation ? They do similar stuff with boat building projects. At SchoolTool ( we’re working on helping them track achievement of math standards embedded within projects.

  2. [...] 2)  Learning Ideas: Math in action — from by Joel Rosenberg (8/28/12) This is the second post in a series about ideas for learning in a Makerspace. [...]