Friday, January 8, 2016

Making Math Matter: Pixel Art Perimeter and Model House Area

One of the key shifts in mathematical practice under the Common Core State Standards is relating problems to the real world. This is not really new, is it? We know that showing students how classwork applies to their everyday world is key to making connections from abstract to concrete, as well as fostering understanding. In my class we call this “no naked numbers.” That is, all numbers need to be attached to words or labels that indicate what they mean. It makes students giggle, but they also don’t forget: numbers mean something.
This winter we have been working on understanding area and perimeter. While students know that these concepts exist in every room, they aren’t really concerned with buying carpet or replacing ceiling tiles. Real world, yes, but not their world. I came up with two ways to tie area and perimeter into something that interested them and still connected our lessons to the world around us.


Pixel Art

Minecraft kicked off the pixel trend and it is still in full force. Kids love pixels. Capitalize on this trend with pixel art to teach area and perimeter. I suggested students use a winter theme, since we worked on these right before the holidays, and pulled up some sample images. Pixels are represented in kid-art, but you also find images used in cross-stitching and game development. This activity could be completed at home, or over several class periods.
  1. Distribute Grid PaperSnowmen pixel art
    I cut grid paper into fourths to limit the space students had to work with. Each student had two pieces to create pixel art.
  2. Create and Color
    An image search using the term “pixel art” yields many samples. Students used them to sketch and color in images, taking care to still be able to see the grids easily. I advised students to only color entire square units and use single colors in each unit. This helped when figuring area and perimeter.
  3. Laminate
    Because this is a new skill, students were unable to multiply arrays to find the area. Laminating the images allowed students to use dry erase markers to put dots on squares they had already counted, or to trace finished pixel artthe perimeter as they worked. Later, we erased the maker lines.
  4. Find Area and Perimeter
    Students found the area and perimeter of each drawing. They labeled each on sticky notes and attached them to their drawings. Then students traded images with a friend and found the area and perimeter again, checking their classmate's work. The sticky notes allowed for changes and students could remove them and keep their drawings to take home.
The lesson was a success and students have asked to do pixel work again. If coloring will take too long, print and laminate existing pixel art images for students to work with. Classrooms with computers can create pixel art in Excel or Sheets by making uniform grids and using the shading tool to change the color of each square unit. Just can't get enough? Blogger Kriscia Cabral has even more ideas for using Minecraft, the pixel-trend setter, as a learning tool, while this art project creates fun pixelated pals
Excel digital pixel art drawing pixel art


Tiny Homes

While looking for winter crafts, I came across small paper house templates. Many crafters had used the templates to building a paper housemake gingerbread houses or winter scenes for display. I thought my students would like the engineering challenge of creating a house and would then have a winter keepsake.
I printed a template onto cardstock and helped students through the directions for completing the house. Then, we used centimeter rulers to find the dimensions of the walls, roof, and yard. Students were challenged to complete this word problems related to the housesheet I created. This drew on measurement skills, but also brought area and perimeter to life. Students that completed problems in class just fine now struggled to connect the skill to real life — exactly what we want them to be able to do.
Real-world area and perimeter problems
After our measurement work was complete, we added clear glitter to the roofs to make “snow.” Students asked for more houses to create, and a search for paper house templates gave us plenty to try. A challenge for creative students was to use graph paper to lay out their own design, which we could scan and print on cardstock to be used by all. Extend paper houses to other subjects with products like the White House Lift-the-Flap Tour or a follow-the-directions origami housefrom Scholastic Printables.

paper house template building paper house template
Area and perimeter are all around us (pun intended). As adults, we see the need for mathematics in real life, but students need to experience it to make it real. Just telling them math is important isn’t the same as putting a model in their hands, or using popular video games to drive home a concept. My students love when math jumps off the page and numbers are no longer naked. See how fellow blogger Genia Connell uses 10 hands-on strategies for area and perimeter

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