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Exhibit A: Math is fun!

Lee Elementary students show fairgoers how geometric shapes abound in everyday life, including the midway.

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 15, 2002

If you go to the Florida State Fair this weekend, some Tampa Heights students have a simple equation for fun: Pay attention to the math.

Math at the state fair?

[Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
Lee Elementary principal Mamie Buzzetti says creating the exhibit helped her students work on the concepts needed to pass state-mandated skills tests.
"There's geometry all around us!" said Jamal Cherry, 10, a fourth-grade student a Lee Elementary School of Technology. "I see it everywhere."

Fix your eyes on the Ferris wheel. That's a circle. Pick up some pizza by the slice. That's a triangle. Care for a candy apple? That's a sphere.

Geometric shapes are just one part of a unique geometry exhibit at the fair by Lee Elementary aimed at teaching the relevance of math in life. The display is one of 22 school exhibits in the Health Fair Expo Hall. The fair continues through Monday.

Called "Geometry Forms Our World," the colorful booth features a teal pyramid, an orange sphere and a green dodecahedron, a 12-sided shape. For the curious, it's pronounced, doh-deck-a-heed-drun. Inside are mirrors, lights and photographs of students. A porthole invites visitors to peer inside the large shapes. More shapes and mobiles hang from above. Bright kaleidoscope designs and computer graphics decorate the wall. All were made using geometric principles. Students' math work is also displayed.

"We took it as far as we could take it," said assistant principal Denyse Riveiro. "We even talked about what different shapes would sound like." She said the entire school was involved in the state fair project. About 480 students attend Lee, a magnet school on Columbus Drive. Principal Mamie Buzzetti said the exhibit helped students learn skills needed for the Sunshine State Standards and how to apply them to daily life. The state-mandated standards tests students on basic skills they must meet at every grade level. In March, students in the third, fourth and fifth grades will face geometry questions on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Possible careers, such as engineering and art design, were also explored.

[Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
Payton Garms, 6, of Trenton, Ky., peers into a pyramid created by the Lee Elementary students that is on display at the Florida State Fair in an exhibit called "Geometry Forms Our World."
Jamal, for example, sees geometry "in his room, in jobs, and school."

Emily Berkis, 9, doesn't even pause when asked where she sees math at the fair.

"The rides," she said excitedly. "If we didn't have geometry, we wouldn't be able to build them."

June Prance, special exhibits coordinator with the Hillsborough County School System, said Lee's project was impressive.

"They always do something very neat and very different," she said. She liked the math concept from the start. "It's sort of a foundation of life that you use even if you don't realize you are using it."

A committee selected 22 displays from 43 possible entries. Selections were based on diversity of subject matter and age range. Twelve elementary schools, seven middle schools and four high schools are represented. A competition for best of show will be held in each age category.

Lee students and teachers already feel like winners.

"We had a blast," said art teacher Amy Propper.

Third-grade student Yvette Samara, 9, said she liked the project so much she's considering a career as an architect.

"I want to build buildings for people who don't have homes," she said. "I would like that."

- Jennifer L. Stevenson can be reached at 226-3405 or at

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