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Here's an activity I recently used with my 9th grade class of students for whom math is a struggle. it is equally appropriate for middle school, modified as needed.
I gave them a copy of the famous "As I was going to St. Ives I met a man with 7 wives" nursery rhyme/riddle. This is well-known and many of you have probably used it. We modeled each stage of the poem using diagrams (tree model for example), multiplication in expanded form, exponent form and using a table to record the number of people or objects at each stage and the cumulative total. Pretty standard stuff...
I gave them two assessments.
1. Working with your partner, invent your own St. Ives poem. The first 2 lines had to rhyme and there had to be at least 4 levels as in the nursery rhyme. I received some interesting responses. Here are two:
K.G. and S.T. came up with:
Each girl had 5 designs.
Each design had 5 lines.
Each line had 5 colors.
Designs, lines, colors and girls.
How many all together?
K.C. and E.D. came up with:
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Fuzzy did not care he had no hair.
So he went to town and found a crown.
Each crown had 5 points.
Each point had 5 diamonds.
Each diamond had 5 faces.
Faces, diamonds, points and crowns...
How many were going to town?
2. I gave a written individual assessment (pls excuse my lame attempt at poetry!)
As I was shopping in Value-Mart,
I found 9 special shopping carts.
In each cart I found 9 boxes.
In each box, I found 9 hats.
In each hat, I found 9 bats.
Bats, hats, boxes and carts,
How many did I find at Value-Mart?
They were expected to express the number of objects at each stage using both expanded and exponent notation. The calculator was allowed.
This is always a daily learning experience for me. I feel the need to be creative with this group to keep them involved and to change activities often. I know that any approach that engages their learning is worthwhile but I also know that activities do not easily transfer to traditional skills unless we enable that transfer. I also feel that the assessments for this activity were a critical piece to evaluate their learning and my instruction.
Any thoughts? See this as a waste of time? 'Fuzzy Wuzzy' math? Is this 'constructivist' according to someone's definition? Why not just define exponents and provide direct instruction? There are several other ways I get at the meaning of exponents and the ideas behind the 'laws' and 'rules' as well as zero and negative exponents. But that's another posting.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Posted by Dave Marain at 9:45 AM