Through hands-on boat building projects, The Lowcountry Maritime Society Educational Program (Building to Teach) is designed to help students connect the math skills they are learning to  tangible work-related skills. They discover abilities, gain confidence, and come to realize math as a useful tool in their lives.

Building is a natural use of math. Building To Teach is an experiential learning program that uses the building process to excite students about math and teach them the math skills they need to pursue jobs in math-related fields like construction, accounting, engineering and computer science. These results-oriented, hands-on teaching methods have been developed and refined over 18 years at the Alexandria Seaport Foundation (ASF) in Alexandria, VA, where young people learn practical math through boat building.
Bard and Tripp

  • Reintroduce the building process as a teaching tool
  • Use and train undervalued and underutilized networks of math instructors
  • Build an engaged community of trainers, volunteer tutor/mentors, instructors and students
  • Help change the way math is taught in America in order to excite young people about math, improve their math proficiency and prepare them for jobs that use math


lms-building to teachThe Power of Building to Teach

Building To Teach reintroduces the building process as a teaching tool.

Using web-based tools, Building To Teach facilitates the development of successful, sustainable and affordable STEM programming for elementary and secondary students across the country, increasing the number of students prepared for advanced science and math courses and exposing youth to STEM career opportunities.

Building To Teach materials are comprehensive enough to be utilized for a full year of classroom learning during the school day; alternatively, select projects and lessons can be utilized in less formal, out-of-school time programs. Exercises and projects can be easily adapted to meet the achievement levels of students in grades 4-12.

Building To Teach engages the building industry in training its future workforce; companies, government agencies and trade organizations supply math tutors, career mentors, and other program support.

Building To Teach constantly improves its training and teaching materials through continuous feedback from the instructor community’s real-life teaching experiences.

Through hands-on boat building projects, students connect the material they are learning to something tangible. They discover abilities, gain confidence, and come to see math as a useful tool in their lives.

Building To Teach is designed to serve a wide variety of students, from middle school students trying to catch up in math, to dropouts working towards their GEDs and workforce training, to high school students from one of the country’s leading high schools for science and technology learning the “design-build” process.


The Opportunity

Math is critical to the ability of our country and our children to compete and be successful in today’s world, yet America lags behind 31 other countries in math education. In 2011, only 40% of 4th-grade students in the U.S. performed at or above the “Proficient” level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math exam. Only 35% of 8th-graders performed at or above the Proficient level. (National Center for Education Statistics) Experts estimate our failure to teach math effectively will cost the country as much as $75 trillion over the next 80 years and put our children at a serious disadvantage as they compete for jobs in STEM-related fields. (Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete?)

Students need to be inspired to learn math—there is no better way to energize the next generation of scientists and engineers than by engaging them today in boat-related, hands-on STEM learning activities. Organizations around the country utilizing small boats as teaching tools already serve tens of thousands of students each year. These groups represent a significant, underutilized resource for math education. Research from The Gates Foundation and Joe Youcha’s 20 years of experience teaching “hands-on” lead to the same conclusion: It’s the teachers that make the difference!

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