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Dry Ridge Elementary fifth grader Coleman Epperson found it difficult to build a tower out of the limited materials he was given.
“We finally have something built. I know it’s pathetic, but to build a right tower I need wood, nails, a hammer and a blowtorch,” he said.
Unfortunately for Coleman and his 10 other fellow Gifted and Talented students, all they had was tape, spaghetti noodles and small marshmallows to build their structure.
The activity was one of several during the Grant County School District’s Math Day on Tuesday, Nov. 25 at the central office that targeted Gifted and Talented fifth graders who excelled in math.
After learning about the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, the students were asked to create their own tower with the goal of constructing the tallest, strongest and cheapest tower that could hold a ping pong ball at the top of the structure.
The teams purchased the materials as needed from a “supply store” and their tower was scored on height, cost of materials and construction techniques.
“We tried a lot of things and every time it kept on falling down,” DRE student Allison Schawe said about her team’s tower. “So, we decided at the last few minutes to take as much tape as we could to try to get it to stand up.”
“We usually don’t have enough time in our classes to be able to dedicate this much time and fun to be able to do all of this stuff,” she said. “I learned a lot.”
Mason-Corinth Elementary student Carter Knox was familiar with architecture, but still found the task challenging.
“It was kind of hard, but I actually kind of had experience with it because my mom’s an architect,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of her stuff. I know a lot about structures. It was real fun. I hope we get to do this more often.”
Marcella Soper, the district Gifted and Talented coordinator, said the idea for the inaugural Math Day was originated when the district’s math committee decided more needed to be done for Gifted and Talented students.
Two Grant County Middle School teachers, Carla Menz and Sheila Peterson, led the day-long activities.
“This gives the students an opportunity to do something challenging,” Soper said. “It allows them to also have interaction with middle school teachers because that’s where they’re going next year. They get to spend the day with children who think like they do. They’re all working together. They’re finding out that math is not just computation.”
The students also played the role of doctors helping to diagnose a disease based on “blood samples” from “patients” or graphing calculators.
“They’re just so into it,” Soper said. “They love doing something that is meaningful and really showcases their strengths. I’ve heard them say, ‘This is awesome. This is cool’”
There are about 450 Gifted and Talented students district-wide, including 62 in the fifth grade.
While this is the district’s first Math Day, Soper said another Arts and Humanities Day will be held in the spring.
Coleman also suggested to the teachers another way to expand the program.
“We should change the whole thing to science,” he said. “And, then we can make things go ‘Boom’.”