EVANSTON, Ill. — Evanston Township High School is taking a new approach to math homework by handing students a construction helmet. 

The class is called Geometry in Construction and the students, led by teacher Matthew Kaiser, are building a lot more than just four walls.

“You have these freshmen come in that have no idea how to hold a hammer, how to turn a screw and by the end of the year, they’re up on roofs, they’re siding houses, using power nailers and the whole time learning geometry through that construction,” Kaiser said.

This is the class’s 11th year. Geometry students gathered on an adjacent lot to build a house from the ground up.

“I realized you can use math like in your daily life,” Hooria Ahmad said.

“These students are really able to see that math come alive and practice in a way that happens in the real world,” Kaiser added.

It takes almost a full year of working on all the elements to frame out the two-story home.

“I mean, it was literally seeing a house being built from the ground up. We saw the floors. We saw the walls. We saw the interior. We built the roof,” student Tacy Jamison said. “It was an incredible experience.”

Since 2013, more than 1,000 ETHS geometry students have built nine houses and every one of them stays in the community and is sold through the local nonprofit, Community Partners for Affordable Housing.

“The fact that a young family will live there someday and the kids could come to this high school, take this class and do this for another family is such a powerful image but also a true reality for what we are doing here,” teacher Maryjoy Heineman said.

The students’ sweet equity and geometry skills are now a permanent part of neighborhoods within walking distance of the school lot it was built on.

“We are doing this for something so much bigger than all of us and this home will exist forever and that you’re changing the lives of somebody,” Heineman said.