The gazebo project : a look into the benefits of student discourse in learning mathematics through a process of creating, critiquing, and revising a plan
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The Gazebo Project is an open ended, generative, model eliciting project that was designed to allow students to develop their own understanding of fractions rather than receiving direct instruction. The students were placed in three different sections to work on the project, a group section that allowed for collaborative work, a peer tutoring section and an individual section. All students were given a pre-project clinical interview to assess their knowledge prior to beginning The Gazebo Project. They were then separated into one of the three sections for the project. The Gazebo Project charged the students with the task of designing a gazebo that would maximize the amount of seating and minimize the size of the entrance, which needed to be a whole side length. By challenging the students to minimize the entrance they were guided to explore the relationship between side length and number of sides. Upon completion of the project all students were then given a post-project clinical interview to determine the growth in their understanding of fractions. The study suggested that The Gazebo Project was effective in helping students develop their understanding of fractions, but only when the students worked in the group section or the peer tutoring section. The element of student discourse created an environment where students could create, and critique each other’s plan and in the process student discourse contributed to revised thinking. This study challenges educators to consider the benefits of open ended generative activities and discourse in student learning and also encourages the use of regular clinical interviews to assess student reasoning.