Geometry City – build a city with math


Posted by on July 27, 2016

By Ms. Jess

Geo City, short for Geometry City, was a semester-long experiential math project for the lower elementary students. The requisites focused on design, planning and geometry. It was fundamentally the layout of a city and observation of geometry in architecture. It was applied math, and it was fun! When the Geo City project first started, I knew right away that this type of learning was something I would have really enjoyed in school. It’s creative, collaborative, and challenging. From a learning guide’s perspective, it is natural learning in motion – problem-centered and growth-orientated. 

The students started out with different graphed papers that had certain goals for each section of the city. For example, one of the goals in the city park was to create a playground that included a hexagon. The students would have to consider the space that was available and what the entire goal consisted of before they could design their playground within those parameters. This took a lot of planning, and often times, an eraser.

After all of the city sections were finished on the graph paper the students then had to transfer their work from a small sheet to a poster size. I talked to the kids about scaling and showed them how to graph their posters in a way that would make transferring the information easier and more precise. We realized quickly that if they knew in the beginning that they would have to transfer their work to “scale” they would have made much simpler designs. This was especially apparent in their layout of the roads. Some students had absolutely beautiful roads with many curves and hills. Once we started to transfer these roads we found out why our nation’s road systems our usually straight when the option is available. We also discovered that there is more usable ground space in lots that are square instead of free formed.

Group 1 had ten sheets to scale and Group 2 had eleven. After a few lessons the students were able to help each other with measuring, graphing and scaling. Most of the students decided to layout the roadways and parking lots first in order to see how much space was left for the buildings. They were very excited to get into the 3D build part of their projects so they would occasionally take a break from roads and decide to build a whole square. Once they started forming the buildings they had to be extremely careful with their replicating in order to stay in line with the original parameters. Some of the buildings were redesigned in order to simplify or account for a parking lot that had been forgotten.


geocity2I enjoyed listening to the teamwork and problem solving that went into this entire build. I often heard compliments shared between partners where there was usually more competitive conversation.  I remember one building that was finished and I pointed out that there was nowhere to park. That student cut a hole in the bottom of the building where a car could enter and exit and let me know there was actually a parking garage underneath. Problem solved.

The groups worked until the last week of school continually improving their builds. They had the idea to invite parents and students in for their city proposals. They wanted to dress up and show off their cities. It was really nice to see them take pride in their work and hear their reflections. Many of the students have talked about different ways they would extend their cities to include moving parts and lighting. I am looking forward to our future Geo City.

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