Examples of Design-Based Learning Projects

three girls presenting a project

Sixth Grade Math Class Makes ‘Plus’ and ‘Minus’ Tangible

The sixth-grade math curriculum was developed to enable students to apply mathematic reasoning in various contexts.  California State Standards for sixth-grade mathematics and the district’s pacing guide were the foundations of this yearlong math project. 

The students build never-before-seen 3-D creatures—heroes (positive) and villains (negative)—to place on a number line.  The positive and negative creatures let the students evaluate addition and subtraction problems on both a kinesthetic and visual level.

Students’ Criteria for Assessment

Don't Wants



something copied

creatures with loud voices

creatures that take too much time to make



new kind of hero or villain

names for these creatures

each creature must have at least one special ability

bigger than 6 inches square

smaller than 8-1/2 x11-inch sheet of paper


student making model of a house

High School Math Class Studying Movement Designs Never-Before-Seen Flying Object

When the students designed a never-before-seen flying object, they learned to figure out what path the object would take as it flew. That meant learning the difference between the angle of depression and angle of elevation.

Math concepts involved in this challenge included properties of integers and real numbers; graphing linear equations; verifying that a point lies on a line; deriving linear equations; the Pythagorean Theorem; and trigonometric functions for solving physical problems, such as the motion of an object under the force of gravity.

Students’ Criteria for Assessment

Don't Wants

contact with the ground

size larger than 10 inches

expensive object

store-bought object

battery-operated object

ability to move

every part must have a purpose

two or more materials

all parts must be attached and secured

must remain airborne for more than two seconds