Inly Upper Elementary Students Apply Ratio and Proportion to Kite Building

By Mark Harvey, Upper Elementary Teacher

My sixth grade math group can now say “kite” in 23 different languages. This is what I love about Montessori—what was intended to be a practical math exercise using knowledge of ratio and proportion to construct kites, ended up also being a language lesson—and that part was entirely the doing of the students.

At Inly we are not only able to use materials to explore various academic concepts, we are able to apply learned skills and concepts to build our own materials. The past few years, my sixth grade math groups have applied their mathematical knowledge by building kites. So, having seen this done before, when I mentioned the chance to do this project with this group this year, they were eager to get started.

IMG_2307Because we were starting this project in the winter, the students were aware that the planning and designing piece may be all that we could accomplish before spring. As it turns out, we have had a couple days of cooperative weather to test our initial designs.

The kites were meant to be simplistic in design for our first round, and most of the designs chosen were diamond or square in shape. First, the students were asked to create a design with two axes and establish the ratio of the x to y lengths as well as x1 to x2 and y1 to y2 length ratios. The students had to maintain this ratio as they measured and cut the dowels to a proportional length.

IMG_2299From there, the students used hitches and lashings to bind the dowels with twine. They cut large plastic bags and prepared the corners with tape. The students secured the plastic, attached a length of string, and attempted the flying.

They discovered that the diamond-shaped kites gained moderate steady lift while the rectangular kite had more difficulty catching the wind.

IMG_2310The students think, of course, that along with future modifications, going to the beach will be the best place to have constant wind. After spring break, the group will take ratio, surface area, and weight measurements, make modifications, and see what happens.

As several students in the group are fond of saying (in Yiddish), “Let’s go fly our flishlang.”

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