Friday, May 2, 2014

Another 3-Act

Fresh off their mile walk around the perimeter of the school, the fourth graders took a crack at another 3-Act.

ACT 1:

How much would it cost to spread grass seed on the field?

The kids are quite familiar with this field.  They've been playing on it for years.  

We thought it would be a good idea to give the kids a visual.  Jeff found a video for the afternoon class to watch.

ACT 2:

What do you need to know?

What the AM class wanted to know.

What the PM class wanted to know.

Here's what we gave them:
I made copies of the screenshot for them to have at their desks.

Jeff likes the Pennington grass seed.
ACT 3:
Let's Get to Work!

Some kids wanted to work on the task on their own, in their math notebooks, and I gathered a few kids back at the whiteboard and we tackled the problem together.  I tried to let them take the lead, facilitating and questioning to keep them on the right track.

We've done a lot of math and we're not even finished yet!
     The kids in the AM class had some trouble getting started.  I suggested a table, which I began and they finished.  An interesting discussion then took place around what we teachers would call "interpreting the remainder", but what they called, "Do we buy 15 bags or 16 bags?"  Ultimately they came down on the side of 16, after learning that the store would not open up a bag and give them just the amount they needed, and after overruling one boy who wanted to save $50 and leave some of the field unseeded.

The kids in the PM class started right away, using something like a "trial and error" method.  After a discussion much like the one that took place in the AM class, they also decided to buy 16 bags of seed.

And also came up with a price of $800.
I believe that the most important piece takes place in Act 2.  It's so strange, and so unlike what we normally ask kids to do in class:  just answer the question.  Yes, they're going to get to do that, but first they need to figure out what they need to know.  We can learn so much about their understanding of concepts from the information they request!  And some of that information we will provide (like the measurements of the field, and the grass seed specifications, although the project would even be better if the kids did their own work on Google Earth and researched grass seed on the Home Depot website), but the rest they'll need to get for themselves (with a little nudge or redirection when needed).  And we've got lots of computation, but as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
  There are some things we need to think about:
  • How will kids be held accountable for their work?
  • What exactly do we want to assess?
  • How involved should we be in the problem-solving process?    
 But I think we've made a good start. Now where can we come up with $800?

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