Fund for Teachers – Part II

My summer as a Fund for Teachers fellow is approaching quickly!  I have bought my plane tickets and reserved the hotel rooms,  now I’m counting down the days!  I leave on July 1st, Boston to Seville, Spain.  Here’s the plan:

Southern Spain (days 1–7)
I will first travel to the cities of Seville and Cordoba. I chose these cities because the strong Moorish influence in the designs and architecture were transfused to the Middle East allowing me to connect the material to my Arabic speaking students. My work here will support two units in the curriculum. The project in the parallel and perpendicular lines unit will allow students to create their own courtyard design and calculations based on these photographs. Activities in the triangles and tessellations unit will stem from the frequent use of geometrically based ceramic tile work, azulejos, used to decorate these structures. For this project the students will create their own tile work design applying the geometric properties. 

Portugal (8–14) and Central Spain (15–21)
I chose these regions as the castles and historical ruins will advance the units of 2-D and 3-D figures and formulas. The 2-D figures unit will be based on shapes visible in historical ruins with a final project in which students will design their own blueprint based on photographs and maps from the castles in both regions. Students exploring and mastering blueprints will be a launching point to the 3-D figure unit. In this unit’s final project the students will design and build a model by studying photos and videos from the locations.

I will travel west to capture the Baroque style architecture and language in Portugal highlighting cultures that influenced my students from Brazil, Cape Verde and Portugal. I will visit Lisbon, Porto, Evora, an UNESCO World Heritage site, and Coimbra, a point of interest for my Portuguese-speaking students as it houses a university that several have shown interest in attending. To finish I will travel to the Castile and Leon Region in Spain, the Land of the Castles, to visit the cities of Salamanca, Avila, and Segovia. These cities are notable as they contain World Heritage sites and architecture heavily influenced by Roman, Gothic, and Renaissance styles transfused to many Central American countries and will connect the material to my Hispanic students.  

Listed below is my initial plan of activities –  
Seville Activities:

  • Visit the Real Alazar, a palace built by the Moors, with formal gardens, halls and elaborate azulejos.
  • Visit the Archive of the Indies and Museum of Art and Culture to study documents of Spanish colonization of the Americas and the history of azulejos to enhance the cross-curricular work with the history department and provide a historical base for the geometry units.

Cordoba Activities:

  • Visit the Mezquita Mosque and two castles, prime examples of Islamic architectural influence and dripping with unique geometric structures.
  • Self-guided walking tour in both cities to document the Islamic influences in everyday architecture.

Evora Activities:

  • Guided walking tour of the city to document the Romanesque and Baroque architecture.
  • Tour the Aqueduct of Silver Water with 9 km of arches to enhance scale and measurement lessons.
  • Visit several castles, and ruins including Lóios Convent with18th century azulejos and a first century Roman Temple.

Coimbra Activities:

  • Walking tour of the city and University to document the simple geometric layout and structures to contrast more complex architecture in southern Spain.
  • Visit two fortified towns and castle ruins in the Border Castles region, which are within a short drive.

Salamanca Activities: 

  • Visit the examples of Gothic architecture, arches and vaults including the cathedrals, Tower del Clavero and Monterrey Palace.
  • Walking tour of the city to document the Romanesque influences including the Roman Bridge.

Avila & Segovia Activities:

  • Tour of the medieval city walls that enclose the entire city.
  • A historical and architectural guided tour of geometry-based structures including the Cathedral, Basilica, and towers.

Fund for Teachers: Part I


Summer vacation is almost here, and I can’t wait for the adventures to unfold!  My summers usually consist of rest, relaxation and teaching workshops.  My hopes of improving my  practice are rarely fulfilled when the students come through the doors in September.  Yet this summer will be different and I am so excited!  This year I received a Funds for Teachers grant that will make all the difference.  I will travel to Spain and Portugal to collect data and visual images from geometrically rich and culturally relevant sites to enhance geometry curriculum.

I realized that incorporating real-world illustrations of geometry into the curriculum would allow me to address three critical barriers to learning mathematics in my classroom: lack of interest in mathematics, language barriers, and cultural barriers. My students (all English Language Learners) depend on visual stimulation to move beyond the language barrier and relate to the content. Incorporating real-world visual illustrations of geometry that are familiar and inherently interesting will allow me to build and sustain my students’ interest in learning math.

I teach geometry in a multi-lingual classroom of ELL students new to our country. My class comprises students from 12 different countries that speak several different languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic and several Creole languages. Each student brings a rich culture and unique set of experiences to the classroom, creating an opportunity for a true multi-cultural education environment. However, every day I face the challenge of students creating division between the different nationalities. In considering the universal role of geometry across time and cultures, I realized that connecting the material to real-world examples from many cultures would allow me to emphasize both the unity and diversity of cultural experiences and work to create an environment of belonging, openness, and acceptance.

This professional development opportunity is more than I ever thought would be possible. This opportunity will make a world of difference in connecting my students to the content and to make their experience rich and meaningful! A teacher’s enthusiasm has the power to make or break a student’s view of a content area. I love teaching ELL’s and I love teaching math, yet I admit that after 9 years my spark isn’t quite as bright as it once was.  Sharing the pictures, videos, and stories from this trip and infusing these into the curriculum will breathe new life into math class for me and my students.