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A seventh grade math teacher is using a quilt project to not only emphasis basic skills to her Monticello Middle School students, but to start adapting to the new Common Core Standards that are being implemented in schools nationwide.
“It’s not really about quilting. It’s about math,” said Pam Householder, a local instructor who is initiating more student-led learning through the crazy quilt project that began Jan. 18. Her pre-algebra and Math 7 students designed quilt squares, scaled them up from 6- to 10-inch squares, and sewed their own blocks together. Through that process the seventh graders have been able to apply what they have learned about measuring, problem solving, proportions and measuring the perimeter of irregularly-shaped objects that make up quilt squares.
Householder said Common Core emphasizes such project-based and group learning. Some of its concepts are being piloted this spring, with full implementation being phased in across the nation beginning next school year.
“It’s a shift in philosophy because a lot of it asks the students to ask each other questions, and work with each other to come up with a solution,” said Householder, who has spent all but two of her 31 years in teaching at Monticello.
She admits she has always used projects to emphasize that “math is everywhere,” but that the new standards are pushing her towards larger group efforts.
“They (students) are enjoying it and hating it,” joked the Nationally Board Certified educator. “They like it because it is very hands-on, but they are also getting to the point they are grade-conscious, so if anything goes wrong, they can freak out a little.”
That love/hate feeling toward the quilt project was echoed in the comments of MMS student Devyn Bowsher.
“My most favorite part is putting it (quilt pieces) together. My least favorite part was getting the measurements right,” she said.
Classmate Noah Zimmerman said he enjoyed the sewing portion, “because it was something new.”
The only guideline besides making quilt squares the right size was that they had to incorporate at least these three colors: Purple, gold and white. The color requirements were a way to tie the pieces together while allowing students to be creative.
Across many subjects
Common Core also encourages teachers to cross into subjects they haven’t taught much in the past. For Householder, that meant a trip to the school library and computer lab for a history lesson as students learned about quilting.
They found out that quilts were brought to Revolutionary War battlefields to keep wounded soldiers from going into shock, and that codes were built into quilts to guide escaped slaves through the underground railroad during the Civil War era.
“They’re doing a great job,” said Householder of her math students, who hope to donate the 2-3 finished quilts to the Cunningham Children’s Home in Urbana. “It’s been a long project for them, and students will tell you it’s been hard, because of the math.”
Quilt squares were completed last week, and will be tacked together by students in upcoming weeks.