Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hey Look! I Made a 3-Act!

     I suppose it was bound to happen.  After two years of covering other people's material, I finally made my own 3-Act.  The inspiration came from an unlikely place:

Actually I've found quite a bit of math in here.

  It was in the middle of a 2-week, 6 classroom tour of Lisa Anglea's  Piggy Bank 3-Act  (it's in Grade 3, Unit 1, pgs. 58-64) that I noticed this:

It was sitting on one of the tables in the Faculty Lounge.  
   I felt it had the potential for a 3-Act task similar to Piggy Bank, except instead of finding out the number of coins in the bank, the kids would work on finding out how many packets of sugar and sweetener were in the basket.  And as a sequel, they could calculate how much sugar and sweetener there was.
   I didn't have time to work it all out at the moment, so I took the basket back to our room. Teachers would have to go without sweetener for a while, but it was all in the name of math.  As I began to look at the packets, I realized they were all different brands: Dunkin' Donuts, Wawa, name brand, generic, etc.  I felt that for the task to work, each type would have to be the same.

A quick trip to the supermarket and I had what I needed, and the teachers had their sweeteners back.

Act 1

sugar act 1 from Joe Schwartz on Vimeo.

Here's a picture of the packets in a pile:

Act 2

   This move was informed by my experience with Piggy Bank.  During Act 2 a group in one class had asked to see, "All the coins laid out in a line."  What an interesting experience it would have been to watch the members of that group attempt to count 814 coins!  So rather then just give them the total number of each type of packet, I decided to make them work for it.  I also felt it would be a good way to reinforce arrays and multiplication.
   As I worked the Piggy Bank 3-Act through the classes, I was surprised by how many requests I received for the dimensions of the bank.  I tried to anticipate this happening with the sugar 3-Act, so I took this picture just in case:

    And for the sequel:

Act 3
   If you're keeping track, it's 40 packets of Domino, 26 Sweet 'n Low, 21 Equal, and 25 Splenda for a total of 112 packets.

 For the sequel reveal, I need to give credit to our district's videographer John McMenamin, who has helped give some of our videos a more professional feel.  Warning: Even with the time lapse, the video runs a little over 5 minutes.  For those unwilling to sit through it, a picture follows, although I think counting by 3 1/2 would make a good counting circle activity.

SugarREVEAL from Joe Schwartz on Vimeo.

Here's what I learned:
  • It's not so easy to make a 3-Act, and it really helps to have people to collaborate with.  Kudos to my ace film crew.  Thanks Theresa and John!
  • Previous 3-Act experiences can help you anticipate what the kids may ask for in Act 2.  The more information you can provide in Act 2, the better the experience.  
  • 3-Acts are contagious.  Once you do one with your class, it's hard not to see the world around you in terms of potential 3-Acts.  Theresa created one from a picture she took at a birthday party of a 4 ft. sub sandwich for grade 5, Rich already has one under his belt and is working on another, Jane is hammering out the details on a Lego 3-Act for grade 3, and Kim has some ideas for 3-Acts for kindergarten.
 We've yet to spring this one on a class, so if you try it, please give us some feedback in the comments.  


  1. Awesome! I can not wait to jump in a classroom to try it... That was a great idea to add the dimensions of the packets.

    1. Thanks Lisa! I learned so much from your Piggy Bank 3-Act. Let me know how it works out.

  2. This is so sweet. Sorry, couldn't stop myself. It really is, though. So well thought out, and one of those lovely "things in the world all around us that we never think about" ideas. Love the variety of approaches you've anticipated. Just perfect. Thanks for continuing to inspire!

    1. Thanks Turtle. Consider it my try-out for a place in the Frameworks!

  3. Great work Joe and friends. Love how you tied in the arrays and connected it to the task. Seeing and using arrays in context was a slick move with multiplication being a "big idea" in 3rd grade.

    Looking forward to more magic coming from somewhere off the New Jersey Turnpike.

  4. Nice work, Joe. I really like the openness of this task - so many ways to go. Including the dimensions just made me wonder more. Why are the dimensions of the artificial sweeteners so large? The sugar packets are only a little larger, yet contain 3.5 times as much sweetener. A possible "real world" packaging problem to be solved. Hmmm... Another sequel, possibly?