This blog post was written by Jeffrey Kurbis, CTE/STEM instructor at Franklin Pierce High School in Tacoma. The post first appeared on the OSPI Medium page.
It’s a typical day in Franklin Pierce High School’s aerospace manufacturing program. Students head into the pre-meeting room to ready themselves for job assignments. As the rumble subsides, I let my words ring out with a smile, “It’s another math day!” You see, I am mathematics trained and, for my students, today is another opportunity to apply “math” to hands-on “work.”
The daily jobs my students have in class do not just use math, they are math! Everything we do focuses on precision and accuracy. It all stems from Core Plus Aerospace, a high school manufacturing curriculum that teaches academic concepts through hands-on learning and opens doors to manufacturing jobs, apprenticeships and college programs. Through the curriculum, we use geometry, basic trigonometry and variable equations to create lengths and widths; surface areas and volumes; central tendencies and statistical analysis; and apply the process to the projects. The products we make and the time it takes to manufacture them involve statistical measurements of space and time.
When we are working on the dimensional aspects of a carbon-fiber chessboard that requires a team to properly plan and sketch with dimensions, math is what ties it together. When aluminum plates must be cut following a set of blueprints and joined by riveting, math ensures the pattern, process and waste is calculated and the final product is precise. When a sheet of thin aluminum must be cut and riveted in such a way that the metal tool box can only be put together if the students follow the plan and measure correctly, math is what makes it work.
Core Plus Aerospace helps me build a math foundation in my students. I can differentiate instruction and take those students for whom math seems easy and dig deeper with material structure and malleability. I can establish pillars of strength and confidence in students who feel challenged in math.
As educators, we have to instill that math is not just calculating an answer, but guaranteeing the outcome will be more successful and the process will be worth it. The Core Plus Aerospace curriculum does that and future employers can be confident that my workers are well-rooted and competent.
You see, I continue to call them my workers. Because my students have a job to do. They hold their heads high and keep their noses to the grindstone. And, thanks to Core Plus Aerospace, their futures look bright.
Jeffrey Kurbis is a CTE/STEM instructor at Franklin Pierce High School in Tacoma, where he teaches courses in aerospace manufacturing and engineering design. He has been teaching for 38 years.