078 – Math and Shop Class with Jonathan Schwartz

078 – Math and Shop Class with Jonathan Schwartz

Math and Shop Class with Jonathan Schwartz

The number one purpose of education is to inspire kids. — Jonathan Schwartz

078 - Jonathan Schwartz

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[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

  • Join us for the interesting plot twists in today’s podcast.Can shop class make kids better at math?

  • What thinking skills are learned in a shop class?

  • How exactly does a professional kayaker become a math teacher?

Welcome to the Table Top Inventing podcast. We took a much needed one week break from the show last week, but we’re back at it this week with a power-packed show. Today we’re tackling the topic of shop class from a very compelling angle.

Over the last 10 years, shop classes such as wood working, auto shop, welding, and other classes have disappeared from almost every school in America. With the university focus toward intellectual property, engineering, and cutting edge science, high schools just stopped teaching these classes…

but at what cost?

078 - Jonathan SchwartzThe overwhelming feedback we keep getting on this podcast from successful professionals is the need for hands-on training. Yet in school, where else do kids get hands-on training if not in shop class? “Robotics!” some say, or “Engineering classes,” others say. My experience in those classes is that the curriculum is so scripted that very little original thinking occurs.

However in shop class, students are forced to grapple with the reality that they drilled the hole too big or that the part is just a bit too short. These errors or incorrect assumptions teach lessons in a way that no scripted curriculum can. Failure is one of the best teachers we have, but we’ve become afraid to let it into the classroom.

Today’s guest, Jonathan Schwartz, is no stranger to shop class or to inventing, and ironically is also a math teacher at his high school. You’ll be shocked about what he says about his shop classes versus his math classes as far as thinking skills, but I’m not letting the cat out of the bag. You’ll have to listen in for the answers.

I know I say this every week, but its true every week. I just loved this interview with Jonathan. He is one of the most interesting guests we’ve ever had on the podcast because he teaches both a “core” subject as well as a shop class. His insights are priceless.

If your school doesn’t offer shop class but you would like your kids to be exposed to more critical problem solving, you need to know about Inventor Camp. This year we’ll be offering Inventor Camp in southern California, western North Carolina, Atlanta, and Orlando. To keep your kids from getting behind, go to ttinvent.com and sign up for Inventor Camp. We’re preparing kids for the innovation economy!

Parents AND students both tell us, “We can’t believe how much learning happened in just 4 days!”


We want to help you and your kids create the future!

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Guest Bio

Jonathan Schwartz is a math and engineering teacher at Colfax High School in the California Foothills. He loves making things and being outdoors with my family. He says “Using math to design, solve, and make things is what my classes are all about”. 

Jonathan graduated from the U.C. Davis and worked in industry for a few years before returning to Harvard University for a Masters in Math Education.
He loves teaching math, engineering, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing at Colfax High School. Students design wood projects on AutoCAD and then build those projects with traditional wood shop tools, CNC equipment, 3D printers, and Laser Cutters.

His passion is product design, woodworking, and creating a place where students discover their own enthusiasm for learning.

We don’t need more math classes, we need more classes that teach math.

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078 - jonathan schwartz MIT construction tool 

Additional Notes

Connect with Jonathan:

078 - Jonathan SchwartzJonathan & the Colfax InvenTeam in the News:

  • Colfax High School InvenTeam

  • Colfax High takes state’s top tech honor (12/3/15)

  • A lesson in risk: Colfax teacher launches Kickstarter campaign for his invention (8/13/15)

  • Teacher creates tinkerer’s paradise for Colfax students (11/7/14)

  • Colfax students’ invention generates a buzz (3/21/14)

  • High School STEM Students Experience “Quirky” Path To Inventive Careers (4/14)

  • RobbJack Shows Colfax High School Students How Math Is Used in Manufacturing During National Manufacturing Day Tour Arranged by Sierra College (10/5/13)

  • Colfax High students receive MIT invention grant (10/31/12)

  • Catapulting Kids Towards STEM Careers (5/24/12)

  • Colfax High teacher adds up benefits of hands-on math Colfax High teacher adds up benefits of hands-on math (9/27/10)


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Text Transcript Coming Soon!

“In high school I never liked math, but I’ve always liked the application of math. I’ve always liked making things. I’ve always liked figuring things out, and I realized that math is probably the most important tool to be able to figure things out.” –Jonathan Schwartz

 “I don’t know if I’ve fallen in love with math, but I’ve definitely fallen in love with what I can do with math.” –Jonathan Schwartz

 “I love it. I love it. I couldn’t be happier doing anything else. Basically, I come to work, and me and a bunch of kids just design and build stuff all day. If I wasn’t working, that’s what I’d be doing anyway. I couldn’t be more please with what I’m doing now.” –Jonathan Schwartz

 “Being educated means being able to jump in and solve whatever you want to solve–whether it’s building a project, taking a math test, or getting into college. All of those are complex problems, and being able to do any of them means doing more than just what you are told. You really have to use initiative. You have to show grit. You need to use a lot of creativity and imagination. Most importantly, you have to be passionate about what you’re doing, because all those things take so much time and dedication.” –Jonathan Schwartz

 “The number one purpose of education is to inspire kids.” –Jonathan Schwartz

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