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A Fun STEM Math Activity: Buying Lumber For Mana

by Gina Morales on July 18, 2013

Part of the reason STEM itself has been so foundational to the construction of Mana, Austin’s first STEM preschool, is that we’re building the school from the ground up – in more ways than one. What better way to create a magical educational facility on a real-world budget than with STEM? It’s the tool we provide them so that they can trasform our world in magical ways.

Math in particular has been essential to helping us stay within the budget we set, which is why we’re going to talk you through how we used it to design solutions for shelving and storage of learning materials on a limited budget.

Specifically, the question became: How do you effectively and efficiently create a learning environment for preschoolers that is fun, educational and magical on less than $2,000?

Construction materials were purchased based on standard measurements and on a budget so lots of math was used to design and construct furniture: If the shelf is 1″ x 6’ x 18” and we need lumber that is sold in 1″ x 12″ x 12″ for $16 each how much are we buying and how much are we needing to cut?

Let’s start by calculating the length of wood we need for the shelf, remembering that the lumber is sold in inches, and because we want to keep the units the same, we should convert the 6′ dimension into inches, keeping in mind the conversion of 12″ = 1′:

6′ x 12″/1′ = 72″

Since the shelves are 18″ deep, and the lumber is sold in depths of 12″, we’ll also need 72″ worth of boards of 6″ depth or, remembering that 6″ is half of 12″, 36″ additional of 12″ lumber, for a total of:

72″ + 36″ = 108″

To calculate the number of boards we need, we divide the total length of shelf, 108″, by the length of each board, 12″:

108″/12″ = 9

And how many of these boards need to be cut? Well, since the length of the shelf itself is 72″, we can divide that number by 12″ to determine the number of full boards to be left intact:

72″/12″ = 6

Which leaves us with the deduction:

9 -6 = 3

Therefore, we need to buy nine pieces of lumber, three of which will be cut in half. Since the lumber is $16 per piece, we calculate our cost as follows:

9 x $16 = $144

Can you believe that the Mana Academy’s amazing shelving units cost just $144 to build? It’s amazing what STEM can do!

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