Middle School Math and Primary Sources: Primary Sources Across the Curriculum Pt. 1

Posted by Rachel Tapling on Jan 5, 2017 12:03:00 PM

Working Hard-3.jpgI’ll be perfectly honest and say that I never really liked math as a student. And frankly, it didn't seem to like me either. I regularly called it "the bane of my existance", and used to get headaches in Algebra class. 

I much prefered any subject in which there was more than one right answer, and also where there was opportunity for creativity. Also, I really disliked long division.

However, I know that those assumptions are based on a very primitive view of math as a subject, and that many folks who use math use calculations as a way to create something new.

Why not start the New Year with a commitment to try to incorporate more primary sources into your math curriculum, while not only increase literacy but also showing your students what math can do!

  1. Calculate Volume Using Architectural Drawings. I know a lot of students who would love this! Using real architectural drawings of government buildings and monuments from the Library of Congress website, students use formulas, estimation, calculations and group work to investigate. It's a hands-on experience!
  2. Use CAD to Build a Structure. Few things are more satisfying than building something that you’re proud of! In this lesson plan, students use a CAD program (Google SketchUp is free!) to design a building or other structure, and then build it using balsa wood. Adjust to suit your classroom and wow parents and administration with student creations!
  3. Investigate a Civil War Battle Map.  This lesson combines Social Studies and Math. Using a map from the Battle of Nashville, students answer questions about the battle and war itself in relation to geography, as well as have plenty of opportunities to practice working with scale, distance, and proportion.
  4. Use Resources from Home. Give students the task to go home and find their own math primary sources. Blueprints, receipts, meter readings, recipes, even puzzles and models work great! Have a show-and-tell….what makes your object a math primary source? What kind of formula or skill does it require? 
  5. Tap into Your Artistic Side.  Practice perspective and proportion while learning about classical artists. Show DaVinci’s blueprints and drawings for inventions and sketches. Collaborate with the art teacher if you can! 
  6. Research a Mathematician. Introduce students to a lesser-known mathematician (bonus points if it's a person of color, woman, or other marginalized group that traditionally doesn’t have their contributions recognized!) and have them read a journal entry, study a formula, or analyze a blueprint that they made. Or, give students the job and have each pick a mathematician to research and then share a primary source of theirs!   

What ways do you pull primary sources to the forefront of your math classes? How have you combined literacy with critical thinking in a scientific way for your students?

Next Week: Primary Sources in the Science Classroom for Lower Elementary

Topics: Classroom Ideas, Technology

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