Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Origami and Geometry

Geometry has always been my favorite branch of math. Mr. Wright was an amazing teacher, and this (former) eighth grader loved his class. My first impression was, “Oh no! He's another Mr. Ruth!” (who taught me seventh grade social studies and whose picture is in the dictionary under the heading “nerd”) but I was wrong. Though pale, freckled, awkward, and bespectacled, Mr. Wright had a gift. He'd sit down next to that overhead, and without notes or the book (items other teachers fumbled with)make sense out of very difficult matters.
He had a way of starting at the beginning of something, with a good analogy. Some hook to make you “get it” before you got frustrated and started interrupting with questions. And for him, it wasn't enough to give you the formula for say, the area of a triangle, he wanted you to know where the formula came from, so that you'd remember it better. His homework was of reasonable length. And he was the only teacher who admitted that semester exams are really hard to study for, and gave us the sane suggestion of going back and looking at our previous chapter tests to make sure we knew that material.

So when I became a math teacher, I had some wonderful role models to look back on for guidance. (Mrs. Brody, I'll never forget you and how you made me love math again. Thank you for not putting me in the corner with busy work because I was ahead of everyone. Thank you for challenging me and making me work hard.) I just couldn't wait to teach geometry.

Not only do I love geometry, I also love origami. I don't really know how it started, maybe Aunt Risky gave me a book about it. She's the kind of aunt who ALWAYS gives the perfect gift. Or maybe I saw someone doing it on one of the “educational” channels we were allowed to choose from for our ½ hour of TV per day growing up. Regardless, I've always enjoyed it, and learned as many examples as I could. When I taught math, I made sure my students got a good taste of it. It fit beautifully into my geometry unit, and it was a break from routine.
Not that I was a routine type teacher, far from it. I'd been on the textbook selection committee when the district I worked for updated their math curriculum. At the conclusion of the endless months of meetings, and mind-numbing presentations by the slimy salesmen, we each presented five ranked choices to the curriculum coordinator. The book which was selected and therefore I was forced to teach from, didn't even make my top 5. I rebelled. I wrote most of my own stuff. The kids caught on pretty quickly that lugging that book to class each day was a waste of time since we rarely opened it. It got to the point that I'd put a sign in the window next to my classroom that said “bring math book” for those rare occasions when I found something useful in it.
{Note to readers: I've gotten side-tracked again...we'll be heading back to origami now.}
The first project I worked on with my kids was the box. It is composed of six identical units. As I walked them through the steps, we talked about angles and shapes and geometrical things. (This was my justification for doing such a totally different and fun thing with the math book in the locker.) It really resonated with them. I'd say I had 85% of the kids completely hooked with just one lesson. I taught them to make those units, and they ran with it. Using different sizes of paper, or different colors and textures of paper they invented some amazing variations. I still regret that digital photography wasn't here yet. I never took pictures, because on a teacher's starvation salary, there's no spot for photo developing in the budget. And forget it being in the school district's budget. Ha! I had to buy the origami paper myself.
This unit was such a big hit with the kids that I decided to submit it to the Colorado math teachers' association to present as a workshop. (Previously, I'd team-presented with my wonderful mentor about games (such as Jeopardy) to review math, and the following year I'd shared (all by myself) my consumer math unit.) I was accepted and passed along to thirty other workshop participants the lessons and strategies I'd learned along the way. (By the time I presented, I'd taught the unit seven times.)
There's nothing that thrills a teacher more than hearing words such as, “I never liked math until I had you for a teacher.” It was my mission. And now you can better understand my complete despondency at my VERY OWN CHILDREN hating math
Here's what one of the units looks like,

 and here's a finished box.

If you are smitten and want to know how to do this, let me know. I still have a copy of hand-outs I used for that workshop. Long live MATH!


Jenny said...

Ackkk....breaking out in a cold sweat here. Anything vaguely related to Math just makes me feel like a moron! But I'm glad you can rock this!

Brian Miller said...

very nice. i was once a math teacher as well...love how you used origami....you've got capture teh kids imaginations or they will just tune you out...good job!

One Photo said...

One of my most inspiring teachers, probably the most, was my math teacher in senior school. Thanks to her my love for math just grew and grew and she guided me to my degree course which was business with math, from where I became an accountant. So the really good teachers you are lucky to experience in life can have very long lasting effects.

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

I love how we can find so many things that pertain to geometry...even in quilting...(thankyou for stopping by my Q post about some of my family quilts) Thankyou also for being enthusiastic as a teacher...it really makes a difference to students, and their love of learning. We need more teachers like you :o)

I love origami :o) I first learned how to paper fold when I was a 3rd grader in Japan. And our son, really was into origami. We like to try to do different origami objects...one funny thing that I like to do is fold one of the bills and leave it with the tip for our server at a restaurant.

Blessings & Aloha!
Thank you for stopping by and leaving your sweet comment. My hubby and I are finally back home and so I am trying to catch up on some drawing orders and blog reading.

Unknown said...

I have always been allergic to math. The Integers always played tricks with me. Seriously!:)
The box looks amazing. I only know to make a Bird with Origami.

SquirrelQueen said...

I was lucky in high school to have one good math teacher, wish there had been more. Trigonometry was my favorite math class but my passions were Chemistry & Physics (and all the math that went with them). I just wish Calculus had made sense to me in college.

I would love to see the hand-out.