Upper School Algebra Gets Creative with Curve Stitching
Upper School math teachers Mr. Julien Meyer and Mr. Andrew Otero are helping students see the practical application of complex mathematical concepts, bringing math from the realm of the abstract into the relatable, tangible world. When their Algebra II students ask “How does this apply to real life?” Mr. Meyer and Mr. Otero answer with hands-on projects that give our students an opportunity to express themselves and develop a lasting connection to the material.
Why Curve Stitching for Algebra?
Curve stitching is an art form using multiple straight line segments to represent a curve. Understanding how to create and manipulate linear functions is a core skill for our Upper School math students and is heavily emphasized on the SAT. This project requires students to demonstrate mastery of linear function skills on multiple levels and shows one way that mathematics can be applied in a real-world setting. Mr. Meyer and Mr. Otero make it a priority for students to not only grasp the ideas they are learning in class, but to relate those ideas to their own lives.
Part 1: Graphing with Paper and Pencil
For the first part of the project, students complete a worksheet that introduces curve stitching. Using paper and pencil, they write down a set of equations based on three types of line segments and graph them. At this stage, everyone has the same set of equations to work with. If each student follows the directions carefully, they arrive at the same result.
Part 2: Graphing with Technology
After students practice graphing given equations, they use the online graphing program Desmos to write and alter their own equations to move them around the graph. As they work, the program graphs their line segments in real time so they can see how changing an equation changes the resulting visual design.
Part 3: Graphing with Mastery and Creativity
For the final part of the project, students must synthesize concepts from parts 1 and 2 to make an original curve-stitched creative piece. They can compose these digitally, with paper or fabric, or using any method and medium they wish (illustration, animation, sewing, computer coding, poetry, etc.) Mr. Meyer and Mr. Otero give students a rubric to follow so that although the final projects may look different, each one demonstrates mastery of the required skills. The final project must include:
Algebraic rules for the curve stitches written out in a table
At least one general rule for linear equations
A written description of their choice of pattern and strategy for putting it all together using correct mathematical terminology
A creative extension of the mathematical content
"We are surrounded by mathematical concepts everywhere, even when it is not so obvious. To see student’s approaches to this project was fascinating! Graphic design, video games, animal replicas, and wall décor were just some of the projects that blew me away." — Mr. Otero
Achieving Deeper Understanding
From simple addition to complex equations, math is a language for describing the world around us. This multisensory project helps our students see the explicit connection between written equations and unique designs we can see and touch. As our Algebra II students move from one phase of the curve stitching project to the next, they can visually see their own progress and self-assess. They have to understand the concepts, use them to create something entirely new and explain their process along the way. This isn’t the type of understanding that can be achieved through rote repetition and memorization. This is the kind of learning that sticks.
"Students enjoy working 'hands-on,' and when they do, the material tends to stick better. When students are making their own creations, they want to explore further and tackle more complex situations than if they were just assigned a set of problems." — Mr. Meyer
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