Sierra School Works makes math matter

Watch the movie: STEM Tech-Explorer Catapult – Sierra School Works Applied Math entered in the STEMposium contest.

Middle and high school students are being introduced to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers by making catapults. In addition, Sierra School Works ( with Sierra College in Rocklin, CA won a National Science Foundation grant to develop and test the impact of integrating mathematics curriculum into the hands-on catapult building experience.

Students converted fractions and decimals from English and metric measurements on drawings. They used scales, protractors and compasses to measure and mark catapult parts. Once the catapults were built using mills, lathes and other power tools, the students measured the distance, height and speed of launches and inserted the results into the parabolic equation to determine the best launch angle. Learning by doing, they discovered why math matters.

Making math matter to students is critical to their success in pursing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers. They need a reason to keep taking math classes. Sierra School Works developed this Tech-Explorer catapult project to engage students and give them experiences applying math.

  • Accurately converting fractions results in parts that will fit together to make a catapult.
  • Applying the parabolic equation to select the best launch angle will allow their balls to fly the farthest.

It is harder than it looks to develop math lessons, insert them into hands-on projects and use the lessons to reinforce the math skills and interests of students of various ages and expertise. Oakmont High School students in Roseville, CA were the first to test the Sierra School Works math-enhanced Tech-Explorer catapult project developed with Sierra College and National Science Foundation support. It successfully modeled how to engage students in applying math. Learn more at ( ).