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Building a "Math House"

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Sep 26 2012 04:56:57 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 27 2012 12:39:00 PM CDT

As it turns out, carpenters can be great teachers. Obviously they've got to know math in order to build things.

KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

As it turns out, carpenters can be great teachers. Obviously they've got to know math in order to build things.

Math was the subject of a special program at the Innovation Academy in Kingsport on Wednesday. With the help of a carpenter, fifth graders built a playhouse; but what they came away with was more than just math.

Back in the day a large group of people would get together to build a house or a barn for a neighbor. But a group of fifth graders from Central Heights Elementary are building a learning experience.

Math was the central theme as Perry Wilson brought his "If I Had A Hammer" program to the Innovation Academy.

When you begin to put math into a practical sense those eyes start to light up. "One of the things that we try to do at Central Heights, we try to make learning relevant to students' lives. If they can connect it to their everyday life they're going to retain it longer," principal Jeff Hickham said.

And they're going to remember this experience for a long time, 'the day we built a house.'

It even surprised some of the students. "When we first heard about this I thought we were going to draw a big line on a sheet of paper. But when we started doing this I was like, 'oh that's what we doing,'" fifth grader Storm Houser said.

This took a lot more than just math, like planning and teamwork, as well as taking a very large task and breaking it down into smaller tasks. "Mathematics is not about a sheet of paper. When you teach kids math where math is just about getting answers correct, they get the answer and not know what the answer means," Perry Wilson with If I Had A Hammer says.

In this case the answers mean how to build a house. They also learned some life lessons, like building a house or a life on a strong foundation, and what structure in life and in their house is all about.

There was also another very important lesson. "One of the messages was to stay in school. You've got to stay in school or else you're going to have a hard time in the future, a very hard time," says fifth grader Sydney Pepper.

If you stay the course, the next thing you know you've finished. And in a morning's time, you've built a house.