A hands-on project combining mathematics, engineering, carpentry and problem-solving elevated student enthusiasm and confidence.
Building a hovercraft recently captivated Kids Unlimited Academy students in Ms. Cheryl Graham’s afterschool enrichment. The experience demonstrated the connection between math and construction, introducing students to hand and power tools — some for the first time. “I have never used a hammer before!” students exclaimed as they wielded screwdrivers, tape measures, jigsaws and power sanders.
“It was exciting to watch how they supported each other in this build and the joy they had using tools,” said Graham.
Focusing on third-grade math, Graham gave lessons in calculating area, including triangles, defining diameter and radii and making a circle with a nail, string and pen. Featured in YouTube videos, hovercrafts were the enrichment’s end goal after students first completed a Home Depot building kit.
The project unfolded over three weeks during which Graham cut out composite wood circles with a jigsaw while students observed. Students operated electric sanders and learned the difference between different grades of sandpaper grit. Math lessons were incorporated throughout the process, and safety equipment was utilized.
A test flight of the hovercraft revealed some drawbacks, such as the weight of the leaf blower, which was powering the vehicle, and the amount of space the blower occupied. Patching potential leaks in the shower curtain skirt, students brainstormed to improve the design and trouble-shoot other potential issues.
Asked if anyone wanted to switch to a different enrichment, only one student raised a hand and asked about doing sports instead, said Graham. Others said: “I love this enrichment — it’s the best ever, and we do math, math, math; I love math!”