Did you know that students’ interests in mathematics decrease significantly by the time they enter high school? This decrease is measured universally, and many factors have been attributed to the reasons this decline proves true. One of those reasons is lack of connection to the tangible. One way for educators to build more excitement around math is to build lesson plans that provide tangible end results for students, something that allows them to hold their success or failure in their hands. Combating disengagement by sharing lesson ideas is quickly becoming a common theme among educators, and social media is one way that a community of teachers can come together and share ideas. Twitter Math Camp is a virtual collective of teachers and administrators who communicate year round via Twitter, blogs and other social media platforms. They meet annually for face to face interactions at a four-day conference, typically held in July.
John Chapin, a math teacher at the Academy of Engineering and Technology, part of the Academies of Loudoun in Leesburg, Virginia, wanted to tap into a great student idea from Heather Kohn, who used CAD design software and multiple 3D printers. Chapin’s students had no design experience and limited access to 3D printers. But these challenges didn’t stop Mr. Chapin from using open source technologies to craft a unique and easily accessible solution for his students. He knew each student had access to a graphing calculator and Desmos, a website that can translate mathematical equations to virtual visualizations. After capturing the image and converting it to a file that Tinkercad, a free, easy to use web-based CAD design program could read, he was able to make a lesson plan that was well-suited to the individual needs of his classroom. The best part was that he thought about how it could scale to other educators as well. The design can be done with browsers, and a little CAD design knowledge. “It is a powerful thing for a student to come up with a design, convert it to abstract mathematical equations, print it out and then be able to see it, touch it and hold it in their hands.”