This curriculum unit is designed for middle to high school level math-science teachers with two purposes in mind The first purpose is for math teachers who want to illustrate the principles of scaling, ratio, and proportion in a concrete way through model building. Too often math is taught in isolation, divorced from any ‘real life situations. This causes students much anxiety and frustration. Student’s failure to connect math with subjects outside the classroom leads them throughout their math program to see any relevance or application of the math principles they have learned. This unit counteracts the irrelevance of math. It teaches hands on skills that can be continually reapplied to changing conditions throughout a student’s educational career. The second purpose is intended for science teachers who want to teach practical energy efficient design principles, with particular emphasis on passive solar design.
Building a scale model house from cardboard has proven to be a very engaging activity that develops the skills of design and construction. It of also an excellent motivating factor in teaching basic math and science concepts to a large number of students. The final construction is exciting for both student and teacher. The student has the opportunity to physically and visually experience the process of creating a house, Just like an architect. All they have to do is follow the steps, 1) Preparing 2) Gathering Information 3) Designing 4) Constructing. (See the illustrations and student worksheets that are an integral part of this curriculum unit. They are available from the Yale-New Haven Teacher Institute office.)
The success of this unit depends on the ability of the teacher to be patient, flexible, and tolerant of student experimentation. The teacher must enjoy working with different types of material and the messiness involved in using these materials. The only prerequisite for the student is the ability to read a ruler.
This unit could be a course itself on architectural model building or incorporated into an existing basic math-science program. It could also be taught as an interdisciplinary unit on housing with a social studies teacher.