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Building Math Engagement with Makerspaces

Turning to the tools of makerspaces to build student interest in mathematics.

By Lani Aquino

Combining hands-on activities and real-world experiences can do wonders for increasing student engagement levels. Finding lessons and resources that foster this winning duo can be a little bit trickier when it comes to mathematics. Elizabeth Little, a middle school teacher in California, decided to think outside of the box when it came to engaging her remedial math students, and she found the perfect solution when she turned her mathematics environment into a makerspace.

Rather than a barrage of stale pencil and paper activities, she enlivened learning by making students active participants in maker activities. In How Turning Math Into a Maker Workshop Can Bring Calculations to Life, the folks at Mindshift delve into her classroom transformation. Collecting a few simple materials from home, readily accepting donated maker items, and having students raise funds for additional consumables transformed her classroom into an active and engaging environment where students look forward to the problem solving and conceptual understandings that meet standards’ requirements and bring learning to life in a mathematical makerspace.

Maker activities won’t be the sole vessels for teaching mathematics, but they can certainly be excellent additions for learning station rotations, genius hour exploration, problem-solving practice, and more. Finding the right maker fit for learning can be a simpler task with a variety of resources for the choosing. These 5 resource links are the perfect place to start looking!

Spheros and Learning Mathematics- Computational thinking is the key to using this STEM resources tool to reinforce a variety of mathematical concepts. Measurement, numeration & number sense, and geometry & spatial sense are just a few of the foundational skills practiced and mastered within this hands-on activity approach using Spheros. Additional coding resources for enhancing math instruction are also shared. Studio Code has activities for students throughout the K-12 spectrum. Study Code utilizes a variety of techniques which include offline activities and activities centered on popular themes such as Minecraft, Frozen, Star Wars, etc. Sphero edu is another great resource that offers a collaborative teacher space to share ideas and lessons. Using the app can allow Sphero to become a perfect station addition.

Makey Makey- This reasonably-priced maker kit offers a variety of methods for turning everyday objects into unique, technological creations. From the banana piano explored by Elizabeth Little’s students to life-sized game controllers, the possibilities for creating, problem solving, and building conceptual understandings are only as limited as students’ imaginations. Whether an extension activity or as a stand-alone STEM lesson, Makey Makey will have students ready for some engaging and hands-on learning fun.

String Art- All the intricacies of lines, angles, and design can come to life via string art. In Teach Math and Engineering Concepts with Rigamajig, the usage of a large-scale building kit to explore the geometrical concepts is detailed. A Rigamajig may not be in the budget for every makerspace, but there are certainly some more affordable supplies that could bring mathematical designs to life on a smaller scale. The best part about makerspaces is that they can bring concepts to fruition through everyday crafting materials that could be scavenged, donated, or affordably purchased.

Makerspaces & Guided Math- Sometimes tackling a new method can be overwhelming because it’s hard to visualize how things will actually occur in practice. Ashley at Talkin Pinata Teaching answers all of those questions and more. Her math maker ideas for young learners include building challenges, crafting wristwatches, and a variety of other tasks to meet learning goals. Timing and management tips are also shared in the post, and there is much more to be explored in her Makerspace Menu.

Legos- Legos were made for makerspaces, and they can be used in a variety of ways to reinforce math skills. From setting up stations for conceptualizing fractions to fashioning more complex builds that utilize problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, Legos will definitely build a level of excitement in the classroom. LEGO Education Maker is the latest addition to captivate students and build a pathway for learning via the Lego brand. Through creative design, modifications, and reflection/rebuilds, students are using a variety of hands-on skills to reinforce important concepts.

Making math engaging can be as easy as turning to makerspaces for inspiration. Students can use a hands-on approach to solving real-time problems. Whether maker activities are used in a station setting or as a whole-class teaching tool, they can be just what’s needed to add a little zing to mathematical studies. With these 5 resource links, teachers are bound to find a fit for making learning come to life in a makerspace.

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