Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Dreaded Story Problem

The other day Liz called me at work - Isaac was crying. He was daunted by the dreaded story problem. I remember feeling that way, and then in college, somewhere along the way it occurred to me that, as an engineer, my whole education, and career, would be summed up as a series of story problems, and that they weren't that bad. I told Isaac that I did story problems for work, that they weren't that bad, yada yada - all the lecture stuff parents do, and of course, it made no difference. That's why I decided on this project. Well, that and the bikes all over the garage were a hazard to my kids' safety, and my sanity...

I handed each kid a piece of graph paper, and told them to draw their idea of what a bike rack would need to be like for our bikes. Surprisingly, they all had very similar ideas. Pipes running more or less vertically, with a triangle behind to support the rack. Then we sat down and I drew a picture that drew from all of their ideas to put it together into a whole. I then told the boys that, before we went to actual design, we needed to list which informatoin we needed. Here's what they came up with. Not bad, huh?

Then came the story problem: How big to make the pieces. With a little guidance, a
nd a calculator, we worked through it together to calculate lengths for all the pieces, and then to make a cutting list.
Then came the fun - we cut the pipes and began assembly together. Every boy got a repetetive task, assembling one step of the rack. The finished rack worked so AWESOMELY! Talk about a sweet DIY Bike Rack! And the best part - it was a blast with the boys. I'm sure Isaac will have more breakdowns about story problems, and math may not actually become fun for my boys, but this was. I love being a dad. Oh, and engineers rule! Muahahahaaaaa

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