This is another post in a series I'm doing on math in the real world.
The amount of mathematics required to design, plan, and construct one of these houses is amazing.
The plans have to be done in scale, and the building is often shown in both perspective and orthogonal views. The budget for a housing project is often estimated using square footage formulas, but can be quite complicated when more carefully calculated. Ensuring that the house is up to building code, or is LEED certified can involve more sophisticated calculations and analysis. For custom designs, the customer needs to be involved in the process, which means that good communication skills are crucial.
When creating the plan for actually creating the real version of the house, each aspect of the project has to be carefully scheduled. This is so that one isn't trying to wire the house for electricity after one has laid the drywall. Creating this schedule often involves collaborating (with multiple contractors), problem solving, and logical reasoning skills. The design itself has to be checked for structural flaws. For example, it is also critical to check at this stage that load bearing walls which actually be able to bear the weight of the floors above them.
The construction itself involves measurement, and understanding tolerances in measurement. Some measurements also involve using trigonometry, or the Pythagorean theorem. Workers have to plan carefully, and when they run into issues, creative solve problems.
In your school there are a few ways to use construction problems. Students could use a 3d design program like Google Sketchup to create a model of their house. From this model students could calculate the measurements of the house, check for structural integrity, and even create a careful budget of the cost of the house. Students could even create a design, and then implement their design (either in miniature, or possibly at full scale if you have a useful project that needs to be completed).
David is a Formative Assessment Specialist for Mathematics at New Visions for Public Schools in NYC. He has been teaching since 2002, and has worked in Brooklyn, London, Bangkok, and Vancouver before moving back to the United States. He has his Masters degree in Educational Technology from UBC, and is the co-author of a mathematics textbook. He has been published in ISTE's Leading and Learning, Educational Technology Solutions, The Software Developers Journal, The Bangkok Post and Edutopia. He blogs with the Cooperative Catalyst, and is the Assessment group facilitator for Edutopia. He has also helped organize the first Edcamp in Canada, and TEDxKIDS@BC.