In 4th grade, the students are working on measurement and data. I was thinking of ways I could combine the two and decided to try and print out maps of our town and have them measure from point to point on a map.

I asked them to draw two points at different intersections (7 out of 7 of them didn’t know what an intersection was) and then measure the distance between the two in inches. These are a few of the examples of how they situated their dots. Some of them made the dots close to one another to make for an “easier” measurement, while others were more random, but they all did a fine job with the measurement. I recorded their measurements between different points and they walked me through the process of setting up a line plot.

This led to a discussion of the smallest/largest measurements, the range between them, what measurement appeared the most/least. They are still having trouble making the distinction between most and largest, or least and smallest. When I asked them what else they notice about the line plots one of my students mentioned something interesting that I want to stress more but don’t always have the opportunity.

S: “All the numbers are the same”

Me: “I’m pretty sure I know what you mean, keep going.”

S: “Well…the numbers in between the other numbers are the same.”

Me: “You’re right! What ‘kind’ of numbers are in between the other numbers?”

S: “Well…the smaller lines between the whole numbers are fractions, and they are all broken up into fourths between each one.”

Me: “You’re absolutely right, why is that important?”

S: “If the scale changes, then it doesn’t show what you want to show.”

We then got into a discussion about consistent scales and how they’re important. I drew some obviously wrong scales with graphs on the board to illustrate the difficulty you could have if you were trying to gather information from a chart with inconsistent scales. I wasn’t anticipating going into depth about things like that, but the 4th grade mind is a very interesting place…they can surprise you at any twist or turn. We then talked about how consistency can be important in other areas like behavior, academics, and athletics.

I wasn’t expecting that some of my students wouldn’t know what an intersection was, and I certainly wasn’t expecting a discussion about consistency. I only have 8 more sessions with these students but I liked the way the conversation went because we talked about real things, not school stuff and not kid stuff…life stuff. I only started here 2 months ago, but in this short time I’ve been with the kids, I’ve noticed that most people don’t expect a lot out of them. Unfortunately, that includes some, if not most, of the teachers in the building. The old saying is true, whether you expect they’ll succeed or expect they’ll fail, either way…you’re probably right.

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