Math Lessons Using Kitchen Designs As Teaching Tools
I am a kitchen designer and my husband, Nate Nguyen, is a 4th-grade teacher at Greenwood Elementary in Wayzata, Minnesota. For several years, I’ve helped him develop math lessons that use kitchen designs as teaching tools.
At CliqStudios, I use screen-sharing technology to help customers design their kitchens. I used the same tools to participate in the lesson. I shared floor plans and renderings with the class, projected by Nate on a smart board, and talked with the students via speaker phone.
I discussed the importance of the work triangle (range, refrigerator, sink), and what is required for the space to meet efficiency standards. I showed them a kitchen design I had started and talked them through development of the work triangle. I then showed them renderings (3-D design images) and photos of the actual kitchen before and after the project.
During the lesson, Mr. Nguyen asked me to calculate the area of the space, using the perimeter of the room. My geometry was a little rusty—I needed help. After he walked me through the process, he said, “There, now you’ve done their homework for them!”
When it was time for questions, students were interested in my work and personal life. Among other things, they asked how I know what a customer will like in a kitchen, and whether I sit all day. When a student asked if our cabinets are ever on TV shows, I mentioned Kitchen Crashers, and several of them knew the show.
After class, students went home and measured the distances from stove to fridge, fridge to sink, and sink to stove to the nearest foot. Students then connected the appliances to form work triangles, labeled the sides, and determined the perimeters. The class then made a chart of all the students’ work triangle perimeters and determined which met the efficiency experts’ recommendations.
We use technology on a regular basis to expand the classroom. The students have used Skype before to visit other classrooms, but the screen-sharing experience was new to most. During parent-teacher conferences, I heard from families that the students were excited about the upcoming class, and after the class, I saw several students drawing floor plans of their dream homes. This was a great opportunity to let students see a professional using math in her work, and apply their new skills to their own environment as they completed the assignment below.