Toby Jaw on Mathematical Constructions

The interview below is a part of a series on New Secondary Division course offerings for 2017. Toby Jaw discusses his upcoming Secondary Division course, Mathematical Constructions With Art & Computers. Read the course description here.

Toby Jaw has been a teacher for SD since 2005! Every year he has taught Algebra II/Trigonometry, except in 2012 when he took a break to teach Precalculus. He has also served as the Math Department’s chair since 2011. Nevertheless, his favorite topic in math has always been Geometry. This year he is offering Mathematical Constructions, a computer lab course that combines math, art, and technology.

What inspired you to create this class?

Over the years, I’ve noticed that geometric constructions are packed with so many rich concepts. However, many of us just see them as a series of unrelated steps. Making connections to the algebra and geometry that we already know gives greater purpose to constructing. The ability to construct certain shapes and objects can likewise strengthen our knowledge of algebra and geometry when these steps are viewed in certain ways. I’m also inspired to give additional purpose to constructing—their own art!

What do you hope students will take away?

As students gain proficiency in their constructing, I hope that they use their new abilities as a method for creating whatever design they can dream up. This new course will also give students the opportunity to observe their world through a geometry lens. My goal is that students will gain a new perspective of how geometry is in our everyday lives, and develop a deeper appreciation of ratios and patterns found in nature.

Can you give us an example of a project or assignment the students might have?

If you cut a square out of a rectangle, and the result is similar to the original rectangle, what kind of rectangle did you start with? We will use algebra to investigate this problem and use our results to guide us in the construction of this rectangle.

How does this class fit with the traditional math sequence and the new common core curriculum?

One of the objectives of this course will be to solidify important solving techniques and concepts in both Algebra 1 and Geometry, helping to prepare them for Algebra 2 and Trigonometry. This class will also emphasize all eight of the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice. In particular, Model with Mathematics (MP4) and Attend to Precision (MP6) will be our areas of focus.

What are you most excited about for this coming summer?

I am excited to see what my students can create.