Students in Mrs. Aldridge’s and Mrs. Federwisch’s seventh grade pre-algebra classes at Saint Christopher School explored the concepts of maximum, minimum, area, and perimeter by designing two holiday dinner tables for their classes. One design needed to seat all the students at a rectangular table and be able to hold the most amount of food. The other rectangular table still had to seat all the students, but it had to be designed to have the least space on top.
This small group, interactive task resulted in rich mathematical discussions as students critiqued each other’s reasoning, debated the meaning of “rectangle,” drew diagrams, and eventually persevered toward a solution. The whole class modeled their solutions by plotting out the “tables” on the playground. This push towards problem-solving versus “recipe-following” math is one of the hallmarks of the school’s STREAM program.