Grade 6 math students design tiny houses from the bottom up.

“When are we ever going to use this?” has been overheard in math classes for decades.

For students in Mrs. Lux’s grade 6 math class, however, with a goal to design a tiny house to scale, and create a 3-dimensional prototype of that house, the answer is “right now.”

Recapping her experience, Amelia says, “It was a really fun hands-on project! We got to collaborate in groups to make a better product. We started off by learning about scale factoring. We started by sketching, then drew blueprints of a scaled model. We worked together to refine the design. Then, we converted from scale to real life and real life to scale. After discussing what materials were needed, we brought in cardboard, paint, and a variety of recycled materials. The process was challenging, and we had to think through so many things. I really learned a lot.”

A scale factor is a number which scales or multiplies some quantity, creating the same shaped figure but enlarging it or reducing it in size. You can tell if an image has been enlarged or reduced correctly because the percentage of the new shape compared to the original shape is multiplied by the same number as the dimensions. The importance of scale factor is being able to create a newly sized figure as a model.

Project Description: Students were given the task to design and create a scale model of a tiny house. They watched HGTV Tiny Houses clips to spark interest and ideas of how to make their tiny house efficient and unique. First, students taped off the size of actual tiny houses in the hallways to get a better grasp on the size of the house. Then, as a group, they brainstormed who their buyer would represent. They used a visible thinking routine, Move Man, to help organize and guide them through a process of developing a tiny house specific to this person/s. It was important to create a tiny house that would benefit the qualities of their buyer. They used measuring tape to visualize the different size models they could make before deciding on the scale factor. Based on these unique attributes of the buyer, they designed floor plans and blueprints using a specific scale factor that their group decided on. Then, students spent roughly four weeks bringing in their expertise from Maker and Design to build their tiny houses. They used a variety of materials and tools to build their spaces and furniture. Each student was responsible for one living space with a minimum of two pieces of furniture. Throughout the project, students completed three different writing responses: 1) Describing scale factor 2) Process of building their tiny house 3) Describing your buyer. At the end of the project, the students created a portfolio that included their writing responses, Move Man – description of the buyer, blueprints, tiny house measurements form representing the scale applied to their space and furniture, and a team member and self-evaluation revolving around our MV mindsets. 

They had a lot of fun and many fail-up moments when applying the correct ratios and scale factor to create their products. I am so proud of all of their hard work and engagement! The students consistently came in with excitement and strong initiatives to design the best products! The students were also surprised by the number of different math concepts they had to recall and apply to build their spaces. As a grade 6 team, we were impressed by the ongoing math conversations happening in and outside of my classroom. 

Student Quotes:

“Our group designed a wheelchair -accessible tiny house for their persona, Patricia Parkinson, a college student in Park City, Utah. We wondered what it must be like for someone who can’t do the things we can do so easily. This project was harder than I expected to prototype. Our blueprint ended up being totally different because of our user.” ~Frannie

“I was surprised by how much math it takes to design houses.” ~Aidan

“It was easy when the scale was right, it all just fit into place!” ~Mary Morgan

“For me, it was fun to work with people I wouldn’t regularly group up with. It got challenging to collaborate, but we figured it out and were able to get the final product done. We were all happy with it.” ~Haley

Learning Outcomes:

The student is expected to give examples of ratios as multiplicative comparisons of two quantities describing the same attribute.

The student is expected to determine solutions to mathematical and real-world problems involving similar figures and/or scale drawings.

The student is expected to represent and solve mathematical and real-world problems involving ratios and rates using scale factors.

The student is expected to determine solutions for mathematical and real-world problems involving area.

The student is expected to determine conversions within a measurement system, including the use of proportions and unit rates in mathematical and real-world problems.

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