GREENFIELD — Julie Stoffler wanted to get her students fired up about learning, so a sprint car was delivered to Greenfield-Central High School Thursday morning to teach a hands-on math lesson.
“I think learning should be exciting and fun and different,” said Stoffler, who teaches math and also coaches the school’s robotics team.
“Part of my job is to expose kids to things they might not otherwise be exposed to. I want to create an experience that their brain likes. I never know how my lesson plans will affect the kids, but I want to try to make an impact,” she said.
Under a sunny blue sky outside the school, students took turns measuring a race car as well as different car models on Nov. 16, learning a geometric concept called dilation, which calculates measurements compared to scale.
Working in pairs, they measured various features of the open-wheel racing car, then measured model cars of various sizes, recording their measurements on a chart.
“We’re going to figure out their scale and size, and then we’re going to go back to the classroom to check our work,” said Dreelyn Spencer, a 16-year-old sophomore, as she held a small white model stock car in one hand and a clipboard in the other.
“It’s a fun way to work on our skills. I appreciate (Stoeffler) being able to get the car here. It’s a really cool experience,” she said.
Stoeffler contacted Gray Auto in Greenfield to ask about having one of their race cars delivered to the school.
Owners Brandon and Brinton Gray were happy to oblige, supplying a black car with blue and white lettering to Brinton’s son, Rylan, racing around the country.
“We were happy to be able to help the community and the school,” Brandon Gray said as students stretched out their measuring tapes to measure the race car parked in the parking lot south of the school.
The 900-horsepower car is designed to race primarily on short oval or round tracks, he said, and can reach speeds of 150 miles per hour on a half-mile circuit.
Sophomore Freddie Toovis IV, 15, said Monday’s lesson was a fun alternative to sitting in class.
“It’s really nice to be able to get out of the classroom and move around instead of just sitting at the desks,” he said. “It’s nice how these people (at Gray Auto) wanted to help us learn,” he said.
Stoffler said she got the idea for the unique lesson plan when she noticed several model sprint cars around her home.
“When I was thinking about how to make the lesson more real, I realized that I had some built-in tools that I could use for this lesson,” she said.
“When we’re talking about extensions, we’re talking about scale factors and how those scales affect the overall size of an element,” she explained. “Once the measurements and data are collected, we can evaluate our data and make some determinations about scale factors and how they compare to a model or the real thing.”
Although geometry can be complicated, Stoeffler believes that making the lesson fun can help engage students. In addition to math, she said the lesson taught the students valuable measurement-making skills that can serve them throughout their lives.
“I think the more I can do to make real connections with students, the more likely they are to understand the content and be able to apply it to life,” the teacher said.
“I try to teach a lesson in many different ways, so I address each student as an individual. I always tell my kids there are many different ways to solve a problem, pick the one your brain likes,” she said.
The fun outdoor lesson seemed to have a positive impact on the students.
“It’s definitely a different way of learning,” said Robert Stevens, 16, adding that the lesson was “very cool.”