Hamden Hall Country Day School

Educating students in PreSchool through Grade 12

The Power of the Triangle - and Candied Dots!

It’s called “Raisin the Roof,” but longtime project coordinator Jim Craddock says that he’s found that Dots, the colorful gummy-tasting candy, work better than a dried grape for this particular math assignment.

For the past 12 years, Mr. Craddock, who teaches Middle School math, has been teaching his young mathematicians about triangles, squares, and cubic shapes through a handcrafted building project. 

This year, with both Grade 7 and 8 students on their own campus out at the Skiff Street Athletic Complex, all math classes are participating in the undertaking.

“Although it's called ‘Raisin the Roof,’ the students were permitted to use any food source along with an unlimited supply of toothpicks. However, after experiencing some bad smells with cheese and vegetables, we narrowed the choices down to only candies. Most students just go with Dots,” said Mr. Craddock.

The concept behind the project is twofold: First, students experiment with building both triangles and squares from their candy source. After testing, they should deduct that the triangle construction provides much greater strength. The second concept is that of what constitutes a cubic shape. 

“I have them relate their shape to a Rubik's Cube. Their 3-D structure must be the same size for the length, width, and height. This is not an easy concept for Middle Schoolers,” Mr. Craddock maintained.

Students work on their projects at home and bring them in for a class competition. The objective is that the toothpick structure must be able to support a cinder block. A piece of plywood helps to distribute the weight of the object that’s placed on top. Those structures that pass the initial cinder block test go on to have additional weight added to them – including that of a grown man! According to Mr. Craddock, every year that Hamden Hall has conducted the contest the winner was able to support the weight of Middle School Director Brian Christman.

Only a “few survivors” remain after the cinder block test; and the following day, the remaining contestants move on to the finals. 

This is Mathematics Department Chair Maria Agulian’s first time participating in the endeavor. Mrs. Agulian noted that although all math classes are taking part in the project, the lessons are not necessarily the same for each grouping.

“I thought to join in with my classes to create a community spirit. Since the entire Middle School is under the same roof, this is a unifying project that also helps students see some applications of mathematical thinking mixed with trial and error,” she said.

Hamden Hall Country Day School

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Hamden Hall Country Day School is a nurturing and inclusive community with a dynamic learning environment that promotes academic excellence by understanding each child and fostering their individual growth.