This is the culminating unit project for the solving equations unit. This project is going to take some serious planning before construction in Google Sketch-up can begin. Therefore, I would recommend handing out the directions sheet at the beginning of the unit and allowing the full unit for students to work on the project at home. The unique planning of the school dimensions will certainly ask students to apply math practice standard 1 (MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them). I require students to do the bulk of the activity at home, especially all the pre-planning. Because students will need to work at home to complete most of this project, I allow them to choose their own partners. I want students to choose partners who are easy to see or work with outside of school so the project can progress on schedule. I do not allow students to create groups larger than three people, however, due to experience. For some reason, adding a fourth group member just encourages social loafing on the part of at least one member.
Be very clear up front about due dates and deadlines if you want to see pieces of the project as it is being put together. I inform students that I will allow two days of class time to work on computers in Google Sketch-up but no more than two days, so they need to begin planning the completion of this project from home, now. Google Sketch-up is a free program that anyone can download. Edmodo is a great means of sharing designs and turning in the final product. In Edmodo, you can create student groups so they are able to share and post comments among group members and not the whole class. This is a good means of sharing the project as it is under construction but so is Google Drive if your students create accounts (Google Drive you must be 13 years old). Sharing files in Google Drive is very easy when both students have an account. I allow students to type the reflection paragraphs and post to Edmodo instead of handwriting. I usually post an assignment for the project close to the due date and students can upload work without any other student viewing the file.
I admit the first time I used Google Sketch-up I did not have any tutorial program but simply began to experiment and play in the program. Students don’t need a teacher lead tutorial in order to use the program. Students purchase video games all the time and never read the directions. Students can figure out how to use the Sketch-up program on their own. Sketch-up also has tutorial videos in the program that students can view. YouTube has several tutorial videos available for students as well. I usually allow two class periods for students to work in class (first class period is any tutorial plans). I make it clear that students should come into these two workdays with plans ready to begin. I do not allow workdays in class for students to plan the size of the building or rooms. Technology needs are why two class periods are given. Computers before and after school are also available for students who need to work outside of class at school.
I developed this activity because it is engaging problem solving for students. The school descriptions will require students to use a series of complex equations to make all the dimensions fit within one school together. Students will persevere in solving these equations because the 3-D program is engaging and the connection to an enormously popular teen app, Mine Craft, will peak student interest. In this time of 3-D printers, familiarizing students with useful technology is a good use of time and resources. The project will take time to complete however, so pass out the assignment early in the unit and allow at least two weeks to complete a detailed project.