Jan 28, 2011

Teaching Proportions, Scale Factors and Similarity

My dad, hubby, and brother-in-law work at Southwest Airlines. Brad is an aerospace engineer (smarty pants!) and has been interested in planes since he was very young. We have a nice little collection of model planes in our living room and my dad often gives him small models to add to the collection. Over the weekend, Brad was given this Boeing model.

As I was taking the box out of our bag, I noticed it said '1/200 scale model'. Being that I am also a math nerd (taught high school math for 8 years before staying home with my sweet boys) I immediately thought of how I could use this if I was still teaching. And this is how I would use this in my classes...and this would be applicable to middle school math as well since I think that is where they are first taught to use proportions and scale factors. Hmmm...imagine that...high school kids still need practice on something taught in middle school. Don't get me started...

1. Groups would put together a model. Ideally I would give groups different planes/models so they couldn't 'share' answers with each other. Ideally I would have money to buy all these models!

2. I would give them specific things to measure on their model like lengh of the wingspan, length of the plane, etc. This is great practice in ACCURATE measurement which is also a skill that high school students may need practice doing.

3. I would then ask the students to use their knowledge of proportions, scale factors, etc to figure out what those dimensions would be on a real, full size plane.

4. We would then look online at sites such as this one to find what the dimensions of the planes were and compare our answers.

5. Some ending questions could be 'How accurate is this model?', 'What could be some reasons if your real life measurements weren't the same as you found online?', etc.

This is all off the top of my head and not super thought out, but if you are teaching middle school or high school math, I bet you could use this as a starting point to do a similar activity in class.

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