The Glenbrook South Geometry in Construction course brings math to the classroom



Taught in a traditional way, geometry can be an abstract science that can have trouble understanding a student.

In Glenbrook South High School’s Construction Geometry class, it provides solid, real-world results of its proper application.

Taught together by math teachers Brian Schmalzer and Dan Leipert from career and technical education, Geometry in Construction is a destination class for students in Glenbrook South.

Requires admission by application, typically up to 65 students attempt to win a lottery to enter the full year course. Often there is a waiting list.

“It’s a really special class and a really special atmosphere,” Schmalzer said.

Using the curriculum first developed by two teachers at Loveland High School in Colorado, Schmalzer and Leipert have taught the course for the past six years. Past Glenbrook South GIC students built walls for Habitat for Humanity homes in Waukegan, Schmalzer said.

“It’s just one of those classes that’s very unique. I wish I could have taken this class when I was in high school,” Leipert said.

This year’s main project, which will continue outdoor work after the winter season, is essentially a small house that will go on top of a camper. The plan is to sell it at auction.

“We usually frame what a house will look like but it will work as an RV camper,” Leipert said.

The trailer from Trailer Made, whose line includes units specifically for small homes, has already been sold, and is awaiting.

The goal is for the class to do framing this school year. Installing indoor plumbing and electrical fixtures could take this project up to two and a half years, teachers said. Leipert is looking for volunteers in those trades, and donations for items like windows.

Meanwhile, the class is making small raft models indoors and finishing work on expanding football equipment under bleachers at John Davis Stadium.

Charlie Gass, a senior who enrolled at GIC as a sophomore, said he helped build a tool shed for Wagner Farm.

“In the construction part we learned how to read plans, such as construction plans for the walls, make the studs and the crippled supports (or studs, which in this case are connected to the base of the window on the baseboard of the wall), ”Gass said.

“We learned about the different types of nails, the difference between pressure-treated and non-pressure-treated lumber. We learned how to use saws, we used a lot of circular saws. We learned how. use a speed squarer (a triangle with a square on one side to get a 90-degree angle), ”he said.

Rarely does geometry sound attractive.

“It’s, honestly, an amazing professional challenge, just because it’s very different to a normal math curriculum, and the kids like it, which is the most important thing,” Schmalzer said.

Gass retained knowledge of circles and triangles, and he used what he learned in GIC class and an earlier wood shop class to create Boy Scouts projects.

“It really revealed an interest in building things,” he said.

Stephanie Wolfson, a former GIC student from the Class of 2019, won the Skills USA Carpentry Competition. Leipert said Utopian Villas, a Wisconsin company that makes small homes, asked about employing GIC students.

Current GIC student Kamil K. Gobcewicz, a sophomore, started early. His father studied as a mechanic in Poland and since moving to Chicago, then Glenview, has opened his own construction company where Kamil helps from time to time. His favorite tool is a hammer; his favorite wood, “any wood that not chip,” Kamil said.

“The math is actually easier than you think,” he said. “It’s like regular geometry, instead it focuses on the construction part. We learned how to do the math for a rafter.”

He used slopes, ratios, the Pythagorean theorem.

“The math part is necessary in the construction part,” Gobcewicz said.

The class is designed for students to swap time in Schmalzer’s geometry classroom with field work done under Leipert every Tuesday and Thursday.

“Contextualizing math with a real-world purpose that could be a hands-on activity or example is kind of where this program earns its drawings,” Schmalzer said.

“When students see the purpose behind math and interact with it with their construction tools, it makes the math more purposeful and it helps them retain the material.”

Students progress simply beyond visualization. Their interest is rising. The class works together. Teachers and students build relationships as well as models, walls, cages.

“The class was a really fun class, I look forward to it every day, and I think more people should be interested in it,” Gobcewicz said.


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