Sunday, November 23, 2014

BIG things in math - Part 3

Read part one and part two to see how my fifth grade students began using Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada's "Out of Many, One" in math class.

After figuring out the square footage and weight of the materials used for "Out of Many, One," I wanted to give my students the opportunity to create something large. My original plan was to go outside and measure our school's field, make a scale drawing of the field, figure out an image that would fit the shape, and then use string to mark a portion of the artwork in a little-used corner of the field. A week of very rainy days made that plan impossible, so we figured out a suitable indoor alternative.

My fifth grade math students separated into two teams to design large posters for one of our school's hallways. I showed my kids the wall spaces available for posters before giving them a selection of different size graph paper and the requirement to include a quote or slogan that represented a growth mindset, but otherwise I left them alone to come up with something. 

Our spaces had obstacles including a fire extinguisher
The first day of work on the project consisted mostly of measuring the space for the poster. Both groups recorded a number of measurements, but had a difficult time translating those to a scale drawing. Seeing that my students needed some more experience with scale drawings, we spent part of the next class period looking at diagrams, blueprints, and other scale drawings and discussing how large objects were represented accurately in smaller drawings. We also looked at our second activity with "Out of Many, One" in an attempt to see how we previously worked with scale.

It didn't take long from there for students to complete their scale drawings. When they presented them to me for approval, I asked how much butcher paper they needed and how large the writing and other features would be on the poster to double-check their scale drawings.

Next, students divided up the work on their posters. It was interesting to see how one group put assigned members certain squares from the graph paper while the other group chose one person to work on text and others to complete specific drawings on their poster.
This group used 1/2 inch graph paper

Both groups ran into trouble with teamwork along the way. I did my best to let them solve their issues, but I had to step in a couple times to help. One group had a very difficult time drawing objects on the big poster to the correct scale based on their scale drawing. I frequently checked in and had them look back at the scale drawing to confirm that their poster matched the plan.
Turning the scale drawings into large murals
took a lot of careful measuring

In the end, my students created some nice art for a bare spot in the hallway, got some practice measuring & multiplying, and learned a bit about scale drawings. It definitely took longer than I planned. We spent three full math periods working on the project and used the last ten to fifteen minutes of class frequently for about two weeks. Still, the students really enjoyed the project and it gave them a chance to demonstrate their budding understanding of scale. If I do this with next year's fifth graders, I would want to give them some more opportunities to work with scale drawings before getting to this project and I would want to speed up the process of creating the final posters. Still, it was a fun project and it makes me excited to find more extended problem solving opportunities for all of my math groups. And I'll keep you updated as I continue to experiment and refine...  

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