1st-4th Math Coach Constantly Searching for New Ideas
I’m jealous of more advanced math teachers/coaches…You guys get parabolas (i.e. Dan Meyer’s Basketball Shot) BUILT IN PERPLEXITY!! This is totally unfair. Even Upper Elementary teachers get rates/proportions (i.e. Dan Meyer’s Nana’s Paint Mix Up). I’m in 1st-4th grade and I have found that there’s a lack of ready-made activities that include what Dan Meyer calls “perplexing” material. If you are reading this and thinking “who’s Dan Meyer” and “why does he keep mentioning Dan Meyer” then you should really check out his blog because it inspired me to start my own. His TEDx talk is also a great place to start.
The question for 1st – 4th grade is whether or not the students can make the leap from “perplexing” material to conceptual understanding in the context that they are taught. Elementary students typically have teachers that are responsible for covering everything…not just math, not just ELA, not just science, etc. This makes it difficult for teachers of younger students to devote the time necessary to crafting truly meaningful math activities. I hope that I can begin to fill that void, though I imagine that I’ll be putting a drop in the proverbial bucket. I’ve put many 1st-4th Illustrative Mathematics and Illuminations activities in one place in my virtual filing cabinets in an attempt to make it easier for teachers. As time goes on, I will continue to accumulate activities and share them. But, I wanted to challenge myself to make something meaningful for my students from scratch. I found myself on Google Earth, using the measuring tool to see how far away my house is from my school in a straight line (I was bored…). It dawned on me that I could measure anything from the perimeter of Fenway Park, to the radius of Madison Square Garden. What if the students were shown a picture of something they knew with lines and no numbers. Could they ask the right questions for us to figure out the area of their school’s gym? How about the handball courts in the back of the school? Why would we need to do this?
The kids began to talk about Home Depot, and who they’d hire to help. This led to a discussion of materials, but we needed something else first.
What do we need to know? How would we get the information? Do we need help or do we have the tools available to us?
The students asked for the length and width and were given the information necessary. This was a 4th grade class that was struggling…I mean strugggggggggling with two-digit by two-digit multiplication. So I used this as a way to remind them about expanding the numbers and drawing the boxes to multiply. We found that the area of the roof is 875 square yards. I think this was a really valuable learning experience. Will any of them have to do this in the “real-world?” Who knows? Maybe, maybe not. But, the pictures and slides set into motion a new enthusiasm about solving it because it was their school, it was their gym. It was something they know like the back of their hand. Maybe next time they’ll look up at the ceiling and remember how they figured out the area.
I’m sure that they had seen enough of this:
Is it possible that, for some, the pictures from Google Earth were as boring as the textbook? Possibly…but I think I got through to a few kids who had zoned out of area a few lessons ago. I’m going to chalk it up as a win for today…hopefully many more activities like this one to come.