Inquiry Teapots

This is an absolutely wonderful project that is screaming out for international collaboration.  Think of it like a chain letter, but math related.

@Namastececi send out a call on Twitter to see if anybody would like to be the recipient of a teapot project.  I said Yes.  Over the next few weeks we exchanged a couple of emails about progress and addresses and such.  All the while, I had no idea what a teapot project was.  I was hoping that she would explain it to me, but I kept my mouth shut and played it cool, like I knew what was going on and I had done tons of teapot projects.  Truth, I had no idea what was coming in the mail, and I kind of liked it that way.  It made me very curious, and I shared it with my students, and they were curious.  Did they make their own teapot?  Was it like a time capsule, only inside a teapot?  Why teapots?  Maybe the teacher was English?  Maybe, there was actually tea inside of it?

It turns out, the teapot is irrelevant to the project.  The project was the box that the teapot was delivered in.  The kids planned it, designed it, created it out of raw materials, and then shipped it.  The teapot was merely an abstract object that was testing the durability of the box.  It could have been anything.  A plate.  A cup.  A figurine.  Anything made of glass that may have broken if the box was poorly constructed, or the packing was inadequate.  When I received the package and took off the bubble wrap, it all clicked.  I got it.  My first thought, without even opening the box and seeing the teapot which I know knew was inside, was 'what an awesome math lesson, I have to do this.'

Unfortunately, it is a little late in the year to start, so first thing next year we will do this.  This will be our big kick-off for our year of Inquiry Math.  I sent out word on twitter that I would be doing this, and already we have a home for the teapots.  @terSonya in Idaho is going to receive our box.  But, we have two.  So, I was thinking I would bifurcate them and send them to different places.  I need one more taker.  First come, first served.

NOTE: While writing this post, the second teapot was taken by @mkurashige in Hawaii!!

Inquiry Math Project

This project was done by @Namastececi.  It was an original project which came out of a workshop led by Chris Betcher and it was initiated by two teachers from the China school and @Namastececi and @aleaf .  The original post can be seen here with full explanation of the steps involved.  I will follow a very similar path, but there will be a few changes as my unique collective interprets evens in their own unique way.  I will blog about it when is complete, because I have no idea what it will look like.  All I can say, is that @Namastececi's original lesson progression was absolutely beautiful.  Here is a brief summary of what she did.

  • Trip to a local supermarket to investigate shapes and language of packages

  • Design an idea for a box on paper, and then Google Sketch

  • Sketch out ideas on 2D cardboard

  • Construct 3D model

  • Pack teapot in newly created box

  • Work out shipping options

  • Wait for reflection from friends

Looking over this project, which took her about 3 weeks, I am struck by a couple of things.  First, this is real mathematics.  Problem solving at its best.  There is a connection to the real world, there is a noticeable problem that has a solution that can be accomplished in a variety of ways.  It requires critical thinking, creativity, and thinking from different perspectives.

Second, this project is multidisciplinary.  Here are a couple of links I made, but I am sure there are many more!

Design, Aesthetics and Art - What is the functionality of packaging?  How do shapes help keep products safe?  Why do designers use so many colors and textures on their boxes?  Does how the box look make a difference to the person who receives it?

Technology - Google Sketchup is a great program, one that is difficult to get used to, but promotes resilience in technology and creative thinking.  It also lets them see their creation is real 3D, instead of just imagining it.

Teamwork - This kind of thing is best done in a group.  The filtering of ideas and compromising is essential.

Geography - Where is this package going?  What time of year is it there?  What season?  Will that impact our package and design?  How far will it go?  What route will it take?

Money vs Time - How much does it cost to send it?  What are the options?  How fast will it take for the different options?  Which one best suits our needs?  Which one will be safest for the product?  How do we decide based on these factors?  What is more important, money, time, or safety?

Democracy - The act of choosing one from the whole class is an excellent lesson in democracy and decision making.  Yes, students will be upset if theirs is not chosen, but it is a powerful look at how decisions are made.  How do we decide which one?  What is important to me?  What aspects of the package do I value?  Why am I deciding the way I am deciding?  What factors are influencing my decisions?

Connections and sharing - The global nature of sending the package to another classroom is setting up a relationship.  Ideally, we would Skype about it afterwards and have a conversation.  Friends are made, learning is shared, the world gets smaller, but it also gets larger.

Beautiful project.  So excited to try this next year!


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