Habitat home building teaches geometry

Geometry students at a high school in Fort Collins, Colorado, are combining the skills they learn in that class with carpentry and construction in order to build a house for a mother and her daughter through Habitat for Humanity, the Coloradoan reports.


The Coloradoan reports on a project to build houses with help from geometry classes.

Geometry projects that include building homes through Habitat for Humanity happen at about half a dozen schools, according to Kristin Candella, executive director of Habitat in Fort Collins. And while I imagine funding shortfalls, not interest shortfalls, are behind the lowness of that number, many projects throughout life draw on skills learned in high school geometry.

“A roof rafter on a doghouse or a mansion is just the hypotenuse of a right triangle,” wrote the Telegraph-Herald in Dubuque, Iowa, in June 2014. “Draw a simple line drawing of a roof and you’ll see that the standard gable roof is just two right triangles that appear as a mirror image to one another,” an advice columnist told a retired man who wanted to build a shed.

In other words, geometry draws on some of the same skills kids will use their entire lives, especially if they enjoy building things, even though most of the construction projects geometry classes undertake in US high schools involve building doghouses or dollhouses, not homes for humans. That’s to be expected, since a Habitat home requires about $100,000 in donations for “sticks and bricks” just to get started. But when they take shape, they’re a marvel to see.

This particular marvel in the geometry world of Fort Collins goes by the name “Poudre Builds” and was started by Poudre High School math teachers Steve Sayers, Nathan Savig, and Justin Koehn.

They say the Poudre Builds project not only gives students an opportunity to explore possible careers in construction or engineering fields but also gives them an opportunity to appreciate the importance of mathematics in the real world.

But at this point, the house they’re building has no lot. It’s the second one Poudre Builds has built this year, and unlike other Habitat for Humanity homes, this one isn’t being built on site. It’s being built at the school and will be moved to a lot after it’s nearly complete. Habitat for Humanity volunteers will complete the job once the house is moved to its permanent home.

If you have access to an affordable lot for the house, email Ms Candella at kcandella (at) fortcollinshabitat.org. To donate money or services to the Poudre Builds project, email Steve Sayers at ssayers (at) psdschools.org.

Editor’s note: A May 5 article in the Chicago Tribune describes a house-building project by students at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Illinois, in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity. The project requires input from career and technical education classes in construction as well as geometry classes.

“I don’t think it could have come together better than it did,” the paper quoted construction teacher Shawn Farrington as saying. “To see high school students produce this kind of work is very impressive.”

“Students are excited to come to class and learn math,” said Rebecca Stewart, district department chair for career and technical education. “I don’t think they even realize they are putting their knowledge to work. And they see the benefits: they know a family is going to live in something they created.”

About the Author

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.