2024 Spring Remote Internship: Emma Starkman’s Grade 5 Math Toolkit Model

MathHappens offers remote internship experiences to students who do not live near our offices in Austin.  Interns are sent a kit in the mail and the goal is for them to learn digital fabrication of math models (usually using a laser cutter or 3D printer), design and make a model, and host an outreach event showcasing their model(s).  Emma Starkman, a student at Queen’s University in Toronto, completed a remote internship with us from January-May 2024.  She wrote the following account of her experience as a remote intern with MathHappens.

Emma at her event.

During my internship at MathHappens, I had the incredible opportunity to blend my passion for math and education into creating a tangible educational tool. I have always loved math and teaching it, and my background as a math tutor has shown me the importance of visual aids in helping students grasp complex concepts. When students can interact with 3D objects that represent mathematical ideas, their understanding deepens significantly. Inspired by this, I aimed to create a toolkit that would engage students in the classroom and make learning math fun.

Toolkit.

I began by analyzing the grade 5 curriculum, dedicating hours to understanding the key concepts that students need to master. During my research, I stumbled upon a virtual math balance scale, which sparked the initial idea for my toolkit. Working backwards from this inspiration, I designed the base of the toolkit as a protractor, the arm as a ruler, and ensured that the balance scale could be disassembled into two number lines to form a Cartesian plane.

The design process was iterative and involved multiple refinements but ultimately, I developed a model that I was proud to present.

The protractor includes detachable arms that help students visualize and understand angles. For example, they can see how angles add up to form a straight line or a right angle.

Protractor.

The balance scale is versatile and can be used for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and understanding equalities and inequalities. Students can explore how different weights (numbers) balance each other out, illustrating the concept of equality in equations.

Unbalanced scale.

Balanced scale showing 5+5 = 10 and 2×5 = 10.

The Cartesian plane component aids in learning patterning, plotting points, and understanding transformations. Students can plot points to create shapes, see how shapes move, and recognize patterns in coordinates.

Cartesian plane.

The entire kit fits neatly into a box, allowing students to keep it on their desks and refer to it as needed. This accessibility ensures that the toolkit becomes an integral part of their learning process, reinforcing concepts as they are taught.

One of the highlights of my internship was my outreach event at a school where I presented the toolkit to the STEM lab and grade 5 teachers. The teachers loved the model and believed it could significantly benefit their students. They provided valuable feedback and were enthusiastic about making math a more hands-on subject. They suggested that the toolkit could be introduced to students as early as grade 1, with new items added as the students’ progress through each grade. For instance, when transitioning from grade 5 to 6, students could receive a full Cartesian plane instead of just the positive-positive quadrant.

The outreach event was both enjoyable and productive. The teachers and I engaged in extensive discussions about math education and further developing the kit. The teachers’ insights were crucial in potentially refining the toolkit, ensuring it meets the diverse needs of students at different learning stages.

Overall, my internship at MathHappens was a very fulfilling experience. It allowed me to apply my technical skills in a meaningful way and reinforced my belief in the importance of hands-on learning in education. The project enhanced my design and CAD skills and deepened my appreciation for creativity and innovation in teaching. I am proud to have contributed to a project that has the potential to make a positive impact on students’ learning experiences.

If you are interested in a remote internship with MathHappens, please fill out this interest form and we will be in touch.