Calculus students use math in real-world for tiny house


Allison McElroy

Students in Mrs. Callie Hoffman’s multivariable calculus class helped build the architecture and engineering classes’ tiny house during first quarter. The students benefited from the hands-on application of what they were learning in math to the project. Pictured are seniors Ariane Clerc and Angela Peng nailing siding to the house, and seniors Kevin Mercurio and James Hanus cutting a wooden plank.

   Math. This subject often creates images of confusing formulas and complicated problems in students’ heads, knowledge they do not always feel is useful for everyday life. But this is not the case for Mrs. Callie Hoffman’s multivariable calculus class.


   During first quarter, the multivariable calculus class assisted Mr. Brad Williams’ engineering and architecture classes in building their tiny house. The tiny house project started in 2017, and since then, students have been making progress on building it, hoping to eventually sell the home to a member of the Sycamore community.  


   The math students were all given a safety lesson by Williams, learning skills such as how to use saws and nail guns. Then, Williams explained the goals he hoped to accomplish that day, and the students chose one of these tasks and went to work. 


   Senior Ariane Clerc explained that she and senior Angela Peng mostly worked on the siding of the tiny house. They measured wooden planks, cut them, and nailed them to the house.  


   The calculus students noticed the benefits of their real-world learning. 


   “It was good to see the real-world applications of some of the stuff we’re doing in class…when you’re just looking at a bunch of numbers and variables, it can be very, like, ‘why am I doing this,’ but when you go outside and use it, I thought that was cool,” Clerc said.


   Senior Kevin Mercurio said that he and senior James Hanus also worked on the siding of the house, as well as measuring and cutting angles for the roof.


   Mercurio described the experience of being able to use his math knowledge hands-on as “surreal.”


   The project connects back to Sycamore’s push for project-based learning, one that seems to have had positive results so far, at least for the multivariable calculus students.