Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Sometimes I swear it's amazing that I don't get asked to leave stores.  "I'm a teacher" seems to be enough of an explanation to explain my strange behavior.

This week I plan to have a couple of my classes start work on a unit involving geometry with some other stuff mixed in.  The project they're going to work on is one of my favorites that I've ever come up with.  I think I actually did this one my first or second year and it has continued to evolve since then.

The idea is fairly simple, take an apartment floorplan and calculate the cost to install new flooring.  When I created the project it was important to me that everything was as realistic as possible.  Actually this is always important to me.  So I created a price list that included the actual cost for various carpets, hardwoods and tiles.  The kids have always gotten fairly into the project.  Apparently they enjoy getting to play interior designer as much as I do.

When I started the project (teaching 7th grade), the rooms were fairly simple.  They were all rectangles. A couple years later I made it more challenging and created a more complex layout that involved many more irregular shapes, made up of various rectangles and triangles.  This year I decided to add more so that it will require using the Pythagorean Theorem as well.

One page from an awesome one that a kid did a couple years ago.

The other new addition that is going to make it way more awesome is this:

I went to Home Depot to check out if maybe they had a brochure or price list or something because I was thinking it was time to update the old one and make it even more realistic.  The prices were all real on what I had created, but it was clear that it wasn't a store brochure or anything.  I was also thinking about maybe asking for any old samples they might have.

Well consider my surprise when I found out that they had free samples of EVERYTHING.  That I could just take.  For free.  I didn't even know where to start.

This is part of the vinyl section with the samples underneath.

Some of the Martha Stewart carpet samples

Very quickly I had filled my bag and had way more than I could carry so I picked up some plastic storage containers and walked around filling them.

I also grabbed (and opened) a pack of Sharpies so that I could write the price on the back of each one.

I think they're going to really get a kick out of all the different samples.  Especially comparing the different hardwoods and laminates or the different types of carpeting.  When able to actually hold the samples, it's pretty easy to see how the prices vary based on the quality of each.

I've never done it, but every time I do this project it always crosses my mind to have them set some sort of budget and they try to do the project while staying in budget.  This time I think I'll have them make a rough estimate of how much it would cost.

This year I also plan to have them calculate the cost to paint all of the walls too.

So although it may not seem like that complicated of an idea, some of the things that I've worked into the project are

  • converting rates
  • using ratios & proportions
  • the Pythagorean theorem
  • scale factors and scale drawings
  • irregular area
  • surface area
  • perimeter
  • percent change

I like this project because the kids usually get fairly into it and it's a real life task.  Although my 7th graders weren't going to be flipping any houses soon or anything, I thought maybe it would be something they'd do at some point.  And they really enjoyed it.

This year though I'm even more excited.  I teach at a vocational school so for some my students something like this is something that is similar to actual things they might be doing.  This is the kind of stuff that my kids are so talented with so I think they might really run with it.  For them I think it's also especially important that I work as hard as possible to make things realistic because they will know if it's not and won't take me seriously.

I got a good amount of vinyls, laminates, hardwoods and carpets in varying quality and prices.  I really also want to include tiles, but they didn't seem to have free samples of those so I'll have to keep looking around.  


  1. While I have had Geometry students complete a similar project, I haven't used samples. They are going to love it!!!

  2. I love that you were able to make this project that much more REAL for your students! We did something similar with a Dream House (they had to design it, "build" it, "buy" the materials, etc. all within a given budget).

  3. This project sounds amazing! I'm a first year teacher (teaching 7th grade) and this is something I was actually hoping to work in. I love that you're using real samples! Could you give me some more information about how you structure the project?

  4. I also LOVE this project and am seeing how I could fit it into my 6th and 7th grade math classes. Any extra structure or materials you could provide would be AWESOME!

  5. I just stumbled onto your blog via pinterest, and I'm so excited. You have so much information and great ideas! This project looks amazing! I'm currently doing my student teaching (Algebra 1) in a large urban district, and plan to stay in the area, and can't wait to sift through all your posts for ideas. Thanks!

  6. This is amazing! As a Family and Consumer Science teacher teaching Interior Design I participated in a program called Math-in-CTE where we teamed up with Math teachers to help our students learn math concepts in our classes and to have real-life examples in the math classrooms. It was an amazing experience. It really made a difference to our students. I hope it's okay... I'm sharing this post with the Interior Design teachers in the State of Utah. This is a great example of a way we can integrate math into our classrooms while teaching our content. Thanks you again!

  7. This is exactly what I was looking for! You are so creative! I'm so excited to try this out with my students. I teach high school geometry and I know my students will be very excited about this project! I'm just having a hard time figuring out how to create or find an apartment floor plan. Where did you find the floor plan or how did you create it? thanks :)

  8. Sarah, this is solid stuff. I tried a project like this, but nowhere near this scale. And your quote:
    "For them I think it's also especially important that I work as hard as possible to make things realistic because they will know if it's not and won't take me seriously." is a major truth-bomb.

    Are you on Twitter? You seem like the type of teacher who would fit in quickly and jump right in. Let me know if you want a tour.

  9. This is amazing. Please make sure that you keep us posted about the progress!

  10. This is awesome! Do you have any resources that you give to the students for the project (handouts, spreadsheets for budget, floor plan, etc.) I would love to do a similar project with my 7th graders, so any help would be great!

  11. Sarah, I would like to try something like this but I am not very confident yet....I might need more guidance to pull this off. Would you be able to provide a plan of how you went about doing this? Days that it took, and resource materials? Please let me know.

  12. This is an incredible project! I was wondering if you have any resources that you might be willing to share? Perhaps, the floor plan that you gave? I am incredibly excited to do something like this! Thank you for sharing :)

  13. This was a fantastic project! My kids loved the authenticity of the materials and they really threw themselves in to the challenge of coming in under budget. I assigned each group a different sum of money and they had to make hard choices about their flooring options! Thanks!

  14. I would love to try this. I am trying to put together a project based learning package for junior high math and would love to include this project. Would it be possible to get a pdf or word file of your floor plan? How many days did this take you?

    1. I would love to have copies also. I am working on project based learning activities also. This is such a neat idea.

  15. This is a great project. Would you have any additional resources you would be willing to share. How you structured the project, evaluated it. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Are you willing to share any further documents for this project (handouts, outline, rubrics, etc.)? This is what I had in mind for my middle years math class as an end of the year assignment. Anything would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thank you in advance!

  17. I also would like to know if you would be willing to share your documents for this project. I think it's awesome and would love to do this with my classes! Thank you!!

  18. I am so glad I found your blog on Pinterest. I teach 4th grade Gifted and Talented math and would love to do a smaller scale version of this. If you have any assistance/handouts/etc I would really appreciate it!

  19. Sarah, as others have said, I would also love to do this with my class! I would love to get any documents you'd be willing to share (handouts, outline, rubric, floor plan, etc.) as well. If you are willing to share, my email address is . Thanks in advance!!

  20. Sarah, as others have said, I would also love to do this with my class! I would love to get any documents you'd be willing to share (handouts, outline, rubric, floor plan, etc.) as well. If you are willing to share, my email address is . Thanks in advance!!