Math Lesson Turns Into World Record

By Alyssa Morones — October 30, 2013 1 min read
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The largest fractal pyramid, a mathematical design in which each large piece of the pyramid is made of matching smaller pieces, ever built was nine feet tall and crafted out of paper and glue. It was also built by a group of middle school students.

At the beginning of last school year, the math club at Ravenscroft, a private middle school in Raleigh, N.C., decided to undertake the world-record-setting challenge. The idea started when math teacher Melissa Spainhour taught her students about fractals, or never-ending patterns, by having the math club construct Sierpinski triangle fractals.

When the students asked Spainhour if they could build a bigger model, “I said, ‘Well, if we’re going to go to the trouble of doing a larger one, then we might as well go for a record, because it’s going to take us all year to make it,’” she explained, in an interview with the News & Observer.

The math club began in its endeavor last October. With the help of Ravenscroft math classes, whose students measured and cut the construction materials, the club worked through the year to complete the project by May.

As the pieces came together, so did the students’ understanding of and experience with scale, proportion, volume, and other mathematical concepts.

When the pyramid was complete, Spainhour got to work on filing and submitting the necessary documents to the Guinness World Records. Two witnesses visited the school to measure the pyramid, which Guinness christened as a “tetrix.”

A summer later, the school received word that the math students’ efforts had paid off. They’d set a world record.

But Ravenscroft isn’t the only school setting records. Students of the Red Clay school district completed the world’s largest LEGO tower over the summer. The structure, composed of 500,000 LEGO bricks, reached over 112 feet, over 10 stories high.

The tower was built through community-wide effort to celebrate completion of the district’s multimillion-dollar construction and renovation project.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.