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Geometry and gumdrops win at Lee Early College

Geometry and gumdrops win at Lee Early College

click to enlarge ⊗

Lee Early College students learned impressive lessons about the relevance of geometry to everyday ... (more)

Geometry and gumdrops win at Lee Early College

click to enlarge ⊗

Lee Early College students learned impressive lessons about the relevance of geometry to everyday ... (more)

Geometry and gumdrops win at Lee Early College

click to enlarge ⊗

Lee Early College students learned impressive lessons about the relevance of geometry to everyday ... (more)

10.02.2012Lee Early CollegeStudents/Graduates

SANFORD - Gumdrops and toothpicks have taught Lee Early College students impressive lessons about the relevance of geometry to everyday life.

In teachers Jenna Rice and Whitney Coon's geometry classes, students recently built bridges using gumdrops and toothpicks to create bridges out of geometric shapes and find out from first-hand experience which shape can bear the most weight.

On Sept. 24, they carried out their experiment and discovered that a structure built of congruent triangles is strongest, as measured by the number of classroom workbooks that could be piled on before the structure collapsed. The team of Mariana Olvera, Jacob Brannan and Carr Schwegler won the competition with a total of 42 workbooks.

For the students, it was not only fun but also an important lesson. They took the project seriously, using calculators, laptops, rulers and whiteboards to help them construct the most effective bridges. There was a lot of deconstructing and a lot of discussion about which method would prove to be the best.

"The purpose of the project was to allow the students to see how congruent triangles are used in the real world - specifically how they create stable bridge designs," Rice said. "They saw why they are important."

Creating the bridges helped the students see how different geometric shapes can be more or less successful when it comes to architecture and engineering. The students also had to draw a diagram of their bridge design, then pick two triangles and write a proof describing how they knew they were congruent.

The team of Chris Foxx, Austin Lamb and Jordan McKay used both triangles and squares in their bridge and discovered that the triangles worked the best for the base.

"The triangles help distribute the pressure," Jordan said.

The bridge project was one of nine on what the teachers call a "Tic-Tac-Toe Choice" board. Students choose three projects on the board in order to complete Tic-Tac-Toe. They all have to complete the center activity: the toothpick bridges. Using the Tic-Tac-Toe board allows students to choose how they will demonstrate their comprehension in three ways.

"I love using this activity because it allows students to take control and ownership over their learning," Coon said. "This kind of responsibility is what we try to foster in students at LEC."

Lee Early College is an academically advanced public high school, a collaboration of Lee County Schools and Central Carolina Community College. The school, which opened in 2006, is located on the college's Lee County Campus. Students enter as ninth graders and, within five years, can earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree. There is no cost to the students or families.

For more information about Lee Early College, visit its Web site, www.leeearlycollege.com.