Using the SAMR Model to Make Furniture Real

Math teachers have it tough. Statistically, students dislike math more than any other subject and I can understand why. It's a new language. You're either right or wrong. Concepts are underlying areas of study that you don't quite understand. Much like in the way of conjugating verbs but not knowing why you are. As math gets more complex, it gets more abstract. Relevance diminishes, and we can't touch it through real-world examples. When students make it to calculus, they are creating algorithms which behave more like functional viruses and morph input values into corresponding output values. Perhaps we should teach microbiology in our math classes to help them understand how math "behaves".

For "The Shipping Project" students had to create a container to ship a product. This was a container for 3 softballs made by the company "Flashter"

This was a container for 3 softballs made by the company "Flashter" I've taught a unit on surface area and volume for years. Last year and the year before, I did "The Shipping Project" wherein students were put into groups mimicking a corporation and the challenge was to be given an object and create a container for that and two more objects; all the while demonstrating and understanding of surface area and volume. It was good and subsequent evaluation showed that the project reinforced essential understandings.  

Applying SAMR to Enhance Learning and Augment Reality
Through my RSS feeds, (Which are discontinuing in July-Grr!) I learned of AR Media's plugin to enhance Google Sketchup. By using their plug in, and a physical marker, one can take any model created in google sketchup and augment it in through a virtual reality screencast. I used Google Sketchup for years before the shipping project to create a piece of furniture which students could also use to demonstrate their knowledge of surface area and volume like below:

Sample bookshelf made in Google Sketchup

Students can calculate # of faces, square footage of material and volume.[/caption] It was cool, but I still felt that it couldn't be "touched" like the softball container. Also, presenting it became more of an issue as with the shipping project, students filmed a catchy commercial as an "add on" to the project with a group evaluation following. The AR plug-in reinvented this project. After I caught the article in Google reader, I learned more in youtube tutorials and was able to take this math product and hold it as if I created it in shop class: 


Applications for Mathematics 
Now, with a quick screencast, students can record their product along with a short narration of the math standards I want them to demonstrate: namely surface area, volume and faces. For an added twist, they could turn it into an advertisement. I think that this product is more interesting and the artifact a better digital product for students to include in their blogs as a portfolio piece. 

Accommodating Mixed Ability Classrooms
Although we have a great program for offering formative tasks for a wide range of abilities (challenge by choice) with this project, students can make their piece of it as simple or complex as they want to be. The math concepts are there regardless but if a gifted students wants to incorporate drawers or a dizzying amount of faces, they can. Students that struggle may want to have it more simplistic. Who knew math could be such fun?

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