Piecing it Together

By Jennifer Pricola — March 01, 2001 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Geometry plus sewing equals knowledge in Robyn Sturgeon’s math class
—Allison Shelley.

Observe any of Robyn Sturgeon’s fall-semester geometry classes at Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown, Delaware, and you’ll wonder whether she’s teaching mathematics or home economics. Discussions of linear equations compete with the hum of Singer sewing machines as students confer with Sturgeon on their graphing exercises—and the neatness of their stitching.

Sturgeon’s classes, which include freshmen, sophomores, and seniors, apply the principles of geometry to quilting. Working in groups of four or five, students choose two overarching themes—one geometric and one historical (such as the Civil War)—for their quilts, then divvy up work on the individual blocks. In addition, students submit to-scale graphs of their designs, including equations for each line of their respective blocks, and calculate translation, rotation, and reflection properties for their entire quilt.

“My biggest thing is for them to see where geometry is in the real world,” says Sturgeon. “It surrounds them.”

Oddly, Sturgeon was not an accomplished seamstress when she introduced her course in 1999—"I could barely sew a button on,” she admits. But when a colleague suggested that Sturgeon incorporate quilting into the hands-on geometry curriculum she was writing, she loved the idea. Sussex Tech doesn’t have a home ec department, so Sturgeon called on friends who were quilting hobbyists to teach her and the students to sew. These days, she can thread a Singer and handle a bobbin like a pro.

The first year, Sturgeon’s three classes finished 12 quilts. This year, thanks in part to a grant enabling her to buy three brand-new sewing machines and other supplies—the cost of materials such as matting, thread, and cutting boards runs about $1,000—Sturgeon extended the course to include two more classes. The kids produced 22 quilts, each approximately three feet wide by four feet long.

At the end of the semester, the students donate their finished products to pediatric hospital patients. It’s clear that the teenagers, who often come in before school, work through lunch, or stay well past three o’clock to finish, are learning more than how to manipulate parallel lines and angles. According to one student’s journal: “I didn’t make a quilt for a good grade. I made my quilt for the spirit of giving to others.”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Profession Webinar
Professional Wellness Strategies to Enhance Student Learning and Live Your Best Life
Reduce educator burnout with research-affirmed daily routines and strategies that enhance achievement of educators and students alike. 
Content provided by Solution Tree
English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: June 15, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 8, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: June 1, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: May 11, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read