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High School Teacher Changing How Mathematics Is Taught

Teachers from as far away as the Artic Circle are traveling to Colorado to learn a new way of teaching math. They are part of a summer school unlike any other. A school where teachers are the students, a construction site is the classroom, and the homework is home-building.

It’s geometry, Scott Burke-style.

“We’re trying to teach the entire breadth of the construction industry,” said Burke, a Green Mountain High School math teacher.

Fifteen years ago, he launched an experiment that has today become a national model. It’s called Geometry in Construction. A class where kids apply math equations to building Habitat for Humanity houses.

“After a two-semester course, they’re not going to be master electricians, but it gives them an idea of, ‘Oh, I do know something about that, and I do want to go ahead and maybe pursue that,'” said Burke.

Cathy Laan came all the way from Fort Yukon, Alaska, where she says very few students go on to college. “I normally teach algebra one, algebra two and calculus and a lot of kids say ‘How is this related to my life? I don’t want live in any other part of country. I want stay here.'”

With the skills they’ll learn in her math class, she says, they’ll not only be able to stay, but contribute to a village of 500 people that desperately needs skilled laborers.

“There are about 100 abandoned houses that nobody wants to lives in because they don’t have the skillset.”

Burke’s first class had 80 kids. Today, he says, Geometry in Construction is in 700 schools in 16 states.

“Whether it’s urban, rural or suburban, we’re all facing the same problems in education. If we can somehow solve some of the parts of that, I think we’re doing a huge service.”



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