New Math Class Applies Hands-On Learning


Media by Sam Hall

Jeff Wallner, math teacher, lines up wood to create the wall of a wood shed being built by the Geometry in Construction class.

Trigonometry, surface area, measurements. These are some of the units Zach Ernstrom, sophomore, is learning in his geometry class. Supplementing these units are projects such as building stairs and a shed.

Ernstrom is taking geometry; however, he is not in a typical geometry class. He is in  the Geometry in Construction class, which focuses on hands-on projects to learn material. Through the class, Ernstrom is learning the fundamentals of construction to utilize his knowledge of geometry.

“I was in the AMPED class, the Algebra I and Business credit class, my freshman year, so I had experience with a class like this,” Ernstrom said.

Ernstrom said that he wanted to take the hands-on type of class again after being introduced to the Geometry in Construction class by his AMPED teacher, who shared with them the trial run video for the new class.

Geometry in Construction, another option for students taking geometry, is a relatively new class to the RSD, having only been introduced in August of 2017.

The course was created 12 years ago at a high school in Colorado and has since then been implemented in at least 450 schools across the country.

The class is co-taught by Jeff Wallner, math teacher, and Zachary Avila, technology teacher. Wallner teaches the math portion of the class while Avila, who has a degree in architecture, focuses on the construction aspect.

The class works with both the school and the local community. Avila and Wallner said the class has built a shed to store their wood as well as a robotics table for Selvidge Middle School. Plans for the future include building Little Free Libraries for the community and teaming up with technology teacher Emily Bowdern’s Drafting Classes to build benches designed by her students.

Wallner said the class is applicable from a real-world standpoint for both the students and himself as a teacher.

“I knew that I would gain some valuable experience from the class,” he said.

Kristen Holness, sophomore, who is taking regular geometry, said at times it is “quite slow” and under-stimulating.

Holness said she understands why students would choose to take the Geometry in Construction class, but it is not the choice for her.

“That’s definitely a class that I think is important for the school to have for students who don’t really like math in that sense and would really like a representation of why we need to do it,” Holness said.

She said she enjoys the idea of a class with hands-on learning for students with this type of learning style.

This hands-on experience helps Ernstrom understand and retain geometry in a practical way.

“My favorite part is learning practical life skills and learning how to build something so that it lasts,” Ernstrom said.

Another aspect that Ernstrom likes is the friendships that come from the class.

“Even if you came to this class and you don’t know anyone, you become pretty good friends with the people in the class because we have to have that camaraderie and work together in order to get the work done,” Ernstrom said.

He said he also has a good relationship with the teachers because in a hands-on class like Geometry in Construction, students get to know the teachers and the teachers trust them more.

Ernstrom said the class is “really fun” and recommends that more students take it .

The Geometry in Construction projects will have an impact into the future, Ernstrom said. They will be there for future students to use.