Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Makerspace Mathematics

We looked for a new way to learn math with a Makerspace Mathematics lab course.

Here is what we learned:

Example of the model boat built in the class

Peter Crim building a model boat

In the Winter and Spring 2021 semesters, we applied foundational concepts like fractions, unit conversions, and scaling to build miniature model boats in a new kind of math class. This was hands-on learning in a remote setting, with support from fellow PCC and PSU students, math faculty, and Peter Crim, the Executive Director of Wind & Oar Boat School.

From what we learned about our Makerspace Mathematics course, we are currently developing trainings for both faculty and embedded “Peer Mentors” to create a supportive, exploratory learning environment in existing PCC Math classes. 

What is the Fostering a Makerspace Culture in Mathematics Series?

 

Foundational courses, and especially college-level mathematics, can serve as barriers to our most marginalized students, and as an institution PCC is making real efforts to explore ways to address this challenge. One such approach being explored by faculty and staff is the integration of “makerspace” culture and practices, proven to increase STEM engagement through self-directed hands-on exercises, into the college Math class (Funded through Improving Undergraduate STEM Education – NSF IUSE Project #1939890F). Through the development,  execution and reflection of a remote project-based class last year (MTH 99M Makerspace Mathematics), our research team has envisioned a workshop series we are excited to share with the broader PCC learning community.   

Through this workshop series, “Fostering Makerspace Culture in Mathematics”, our team of Math faculty and STEM educators model fundamental practices found in an inclusive makerspace environment which foster key elements of the student experience.

A class that elevates a makerspace culture to improve access and success for its students: 

  • supports conversations between instructors and students initiated with vigor and genuine interest about one another’s perspective, exploring a range of ideas and processes to solutions (Well-being & cultural relevance)  
  • is structured to provide many, varied opportunities for informal involvement (i.e. structured group work or breakout rooms, use of the chat feature, shared documents, screen sharing, etc.) (Space Utilization)
  • provides opportunities for all students to actively participate, with regular prompting through a variety of communication tools or strategies (Participation)
  • provides consistent opportunities for exploration of problem-solving, and “learning from failure” in scenarios that are student-directed and instructor-facilitated with “multiple paths to a solution” (Makerspace Competencies)
  • includes discussion or demonstration of the relevance of activities to students’ lives and/or a broader context (Relevance)
  • builds opportunities for students to serve as Peer mentors or facilitators of learning as a means of strengthening community

These trainings are open to any educational practitioner to support foundational work around practical applications of social justice, with specific emphasis on Mathematics. Workshops include a three-part series to build one’s understanding of “self” as a foundation (“Finding/Using Social Connections to Dismantle White Supremacy within the Classroom; Part 1 recommended co-requisite to series), and faculty and staff-led sessions highlighting strategies to improve activities commonly found in Math courses. 

 

PCC staff and faculty interested in participating in these sessions can enroll through MyCareer@PCC

External educators can reach out for registration information by contacting mgess@pcc.edu

Part I: Finding/Using Social Connections–Inside Focus
Workshop Details:

When: Wednesday, February 23nd; 1-3pm Where: Virtual

Wednesday, March 2nd; 11-1pm Virtual

About this workshop:

Designed for faculty looking for that “next level”  to their learning, we will take a deeper dive through social justice – looking inward toward perspectives that prompt sustainability in your practice. Together, we’ll gather a greater understanding, appreciation, and open the mind to possibilities beyond myths and toward tangible hands-on exploration of the self and workable tools. The “Finding/Using Social Connection” series centers the values of fostering a makerspace environment with emphasis on humanitarianism and ‘social cognizance’. In Part 1 of the series, we’ll focus on an exploration of the self and world views with activities, discussions, and real applications of social connections. Participants will have the space to collaborate with peers in implementing strategies/tools to engage with students, and explore their thoughts on the process. 

Part II: Finding/Using Social Connections–The World Around Us
Workshop Details:

When: Wednesday, February 9th; 11-1pm Where: Virtual

Wednesday, February 16th;  5-7pm Virtual

Friday, March 4th; 1-3pm

About this workshop:

This workshop was designed for faculty as a deep dive through social justice – looking inward toward perspectives that prompt sustainability in our practices. Together, we’ll gather a greater understanding, appreciation, and open the mind to possibilities beyond myths and toward tangible hands-on exploration of the self, the world in which we live, and workable tools. The “Finding/Using Social Connection” series centers the values of fostering a makerspace environment with emphasis on humanitarianism and ‘social cognizance’. In Part II of the series, The World Around Us, we’ll examine the individual’s relationship with the self, others, and academia in and outside of  the classroom through activities, discussions, and real applications of social connections. Participants will have the space to collaborate with peers in implementing strategies/tools to engage with students, and explore their thoughts on the process. Ideally, we recommend that participants take Part I before Part II, however feel free to join the series at any stage.

Rethinking “Irritating” Students
Workshop Details:

When: Friday, February 11; 1-3pm Where: Virtual

About this Workshop:

In this training we will guide participants through a personal analysis of our individual responses to student behaviors we find irritating. Through this exploration, we hope participants will gain a greater awareness of their values, respect for others, and compassion for themselves and their students.  Participants will be offered space and support to reframe irritation as a productive struggle that can improve student success and teacher satisfaction. In addition to building community among colleagues, our workshop aims to increase the intentionality of our actions and strengthen our courage to act as we attempt to disrupt patterns of behavior that no longer serve us. 

 

Improving Real Life Application
Workshop Details:

When: Friday, February 18th; 10-12pm Where: Virtual

About this workshop:

In this workshop we will cover why authentic math applications are important through the social connection lens. We will share strategies for improving our application questions and discuss ways to incorporate more student voices. Please bring an application question from your class. There will be time in the workshop to edit/improve that question in small groups. 

 

Building Community and Social Connections
Workshop Details:

When: Friday, February 25th; 1-3pm Where: Virtual

About this workshop:

In this workshop we will brainstorm and share strategies for building community and strengthening social connections in our classrooms. We will also offer practical support for trauma informed pedagogy with a set of eight twenty-five minute group activities that can be incorporated each week into the classroom, specifically tailored to the 10-week PCC course schedule.

 

 

 

Please click on this link and complete our interest form: MGESS Grant Opportunities for Involvement 

Interested in learning how to get involved?

There are paid opportunities related to this work in the upcoming Fall and Winter semesters. Please click on this link and complete our interest form: MGESS Grant Opportunities for Involvement

The team

Meet the Makerspace Mathematics team!

This class was made possible by a grant awarded to PCC Southeast by the National Science Foundation.

Spreading the word

Are you a PCC faculty member and want to promote this class to your students? Here are links to our promotional materials:

Stay up-to-date

To find updates about this project and social media posts, check out our community-building page.