Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mathematics and our 3D Artifacts

In Mathematics the students are adding and subtracting 3 and 4 digit numbers. They are engaged in a variety opportunities to gain knowledge, problem solve, apply their skills, and communicate their understanding, or lack thereof. They are talking, drawing, and using manipulatives as they work through problems. Sometimes they work with others and sometimes they work on their own. As I move around the room I listen to what the kids are saying, watch them work, and ask them questions about their ideas and the processes they are following to solve problems/complete a task. They seemed to be on the right track so I decided to add another layer to their learning.

I put the students into groups and explained that they would need choose a 4 digit number, create a representation of it using Tinkercad (3D software), print it, and then present it to the class. Based on my observations and discussions with the students, this seemed like the perfect time and task to integrate the 3D technology in a way that would allow them to use a design mindset to apply their knowledge and skills to create physical artifacts of their learning - to bring their thoughts and ideas to life. This task would also allow them to be collaborative and creative in order to complete the assignment.

I created the groups strategically. Each group had the following:
  • a natural/compassionate leader
  • someone skilled at using Tincercad
  • a student unsure of what to do
  • confident/competent student with the "Math"
I also let the students know that I would be moving people around if I felt that they had been placed in a group that wasn't working for them. There was a bit of grumbling, but once they got started things seemed to be going smoothly. Once or two group changes were made (personality conflicts) and then things were really underway. Each group had a Chromebook to access Tincercad and as usual they were free to work anywhere they wanted to within the classroom. 

While the students were working I was moving from group to group - listening to them and watching them go through the process of expressing their ideas (discussion, 2D drawings), representing them (using the software to take 2D drawings into 3D drawings), and then creating them (3D printing their representations). I was also listening for references to what they were learning in our current unit of study, past unit, and future units. From my perspective, I got to see and hear the four areas of achievement in such a natural way. The students were providing me with great data about what they know and what they can do as they engaged in this activity. 

The students were given two "Math" periods to collaborate and create and then we printed their work. 

Here are some photos of them working through the process:

Here are some screen shots of their work in Tinkercad:

Here are some photos of their 3D printed representations:

When the time came to present their work, the students were very excited to share what they had done. They talked about what worked, what didn't work, and how they dealt with design problems. They talked about their experience using Tinkercad and about new ideas that have come from this experience. EVERYONE in the group spoke and had something to offer. They even made sure to let me know who they might want to work with next time and who would like to lead :)

This was their first time they went through the entire design mindset process - from beginning to end. They have a lot of experience using the Chromebook and a significant amount using Tinkercad but this was the first time they printed their work. Having printed their work and actually held a product of their thinking in their hands, they now have some insight into how the printer puts together their design and what they might do differently now that they know how the printer does its job. 

This experience has provided my students and I with a new and exciting layer to our learning journey. We could feel a shift, an evolution, as we worked through the task that was given to them. They have a taste of the amplification that this type of thinking and technology can provide their thoughts and ideas. We are looking forward to what comes next and I can't wait until the next time I share our experiences with you.

I would love to hear about your thoughts and ideas about our experience. Please feel free to leave a comment below, and/or connect with me on Twitter or Google +.


  1. Rolland, once again your innovation amazes me and makes me jealous. Oh how I wish I had a 3D printer, lol.

    Love the connections you made but was wondering what was the math talk like when the kids where making their objects? Where they talking about elements of design? Measuring distances? I am also wondering about the connection to addition. Was the purpose to represent the numbers in an interesting way or to show 1121? I noticed that students used that number and some showed base-ten.

    Sorry you cannot take the math guy out of me. I think that 3D printing has so much potential to unlock kids discussion around the numbers they chose, coordinate grids, relating to balance and elements of design and proportional reasoning skills.

    One more question: Where are you going to go from here?

    Thanks for sharing your journey.

  2. Hey Jonathan! Thanks for your comment. The math talk I heard was around setting rules about how to design their number, whether to use established base ten terminology (ones, tens, hundreds, etc) or creating their own. They didn't talk about measuring distances but they did talk about symmetry, shapes, and how to position objects. It was up to the group how they wanted to represent their number - in fact, the students that used base ten were questioned on why they didn't create their own unique representation. I tried not to provide them with too many parameters because I didn't want to lead them in any particular direction. I truly wanted their creative juices to flow! I am happy with what they did and their demonstration of understanding. I don't mind the Math guy in fact, I was kind of hoping that it would come out.

    Where will I go from here? Great question - I don't have a solid answer for you. What I can say is that I want to know where my students will take us from this point. They have great ideas and they have been challenged to connect their ideas to the content we are immersed in at school. Having said that, I am open to genius hour ideas that they come up with and hope that we can get into some more of that at recess times and outside of school time. Make sense?

  3. Hi RC, I am wondering if there was any group that represented the magnitude change of the number through actual volume of the shape? I always find that the measurement units are hard to represent to them - maybe a 3D plan for next year?

    Kellie Grant

  4. Hey Miss G, can you give me more detail about your volume question? I'm not sure I understand. Give me an example, it will help me answer the question.