“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a saying that translates into the idea that a complex idea or thought can be conveyed with a simple picture. Take for example the picture below.
This picture of a German Parking Lot (so I was told) was sent to me in an email years ago so I do not know to whom to give credit for the picture. I actually used this picture in my classroom for years on my “Parking Lot” board. If you have never used a Parking Lot (a topic for another post altogether) you should try it.
So let’s look at the picture and see if it is really “worth a thousand words.” In a middle school or high school classroom one could certainly use this as a writing prompt or introduction to the applications for cylinders. What a marvel of engineering. Questions to prompt discussion might include the following. Why would this be more a more efficient parking structure? What would the average size of each parking slot have to be to fit the vehicles in the school’s parking lot? Even have the students come up with questions needed to build the structure and/or questions for which the picture might provide an answer. Proportional reasoning could be applied to determine the size of the structure based upon the measure of one of the cars shown and its true size.
What about the elementary classroom? With the CCSSM, our kindergarten students are required to draw a cylinder as well as other three-dimensional shapes. Here is a perfect example of a cylinder in real life – bigger than life! It’s not just a soft drink can, oats box, or potato chips canister. This is a cylinder at work! Can your students find other cylinders at work in their world? This would make a great problem of the month bulletin board. Children can take a month to hunt for cylinders as they travel around with their parents/caregivers. Another nice way to get the adults in their lives involved. Beginning mathematicians can even just count the cars or sort the cars. Intermediate students could extend this to develop a strategy for finding how many cars would fit in one level, in three levels, in the entire structure.
Think about this picture, or a picture you have used. Please let me know how you use this one or others. I also collect “carpet pictures.” Carpets in hotels offer a wonderful variety of designs, shapes, curves, etc. that can be brought into the mathematics class as well. Getting our students to become thoughtful observers of their world as well as thoughtful writers about the world they see should be a goal for teachers at any level.