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Sweet Probability

Remember a few weeks ago when I said that our kids tend to be low in Graphing, Probability and Statistics? I’ve been doing lots of hands on activities to help my students really understand probability and statistics, here are a couple of the ones that the kids really liked:

Probability Spinner:

I got this idea from, this is a great website  for 3rd-5th grade math practice. Find the spinner activity here. This is what we did:

We discussed the probability of spinning each color, something we have done lots of times. Red is 4 out of 8, or 4:8, or 4/8, green is 1 out of 8 and so on… They get that, but they don’t “get” what it means. So, we did an experiment. I give the kids spinners and they used a paperclip to see how our probabilities matched up.

The kids worked in partners and spun 32 times, keeping tally of what color the paper clip landed on. They they determined what the actual probability of spinning each color. We compared their outcomes to our original probability and students were able to see that it was pretty close to what we had predicted. By the end of this activity they really “got” that probability is not just a random number that means nothing, it is actually predicting what would happen.

Candy Probability

Another fun activity to learn about probability is the probability of getting the different colors M&Ms. I think they might have liked this one better, mostly because I gave them a cupful of M&Ms 🙂

Here is the record sheet I made for this activity:

Candy Probability:

Here is what we did:

I gave each student a Dixie cup full of M&Ms (I used to buy the mini bags of MMs, but now I just buy the big bag and use mini cups…way cheaper!) They separated them into colors and counted them.

Then we determined the probabilities and created graphs of the different colors.

You can see this child chose a scale that was too big for his was really interesting to see them try to figure it out.

There was lots of learning happening here with probability and graphing. The kids had to reduce their fractions and compare the probabilities. They also had a choose a scale for their graph that worked for the number of M&Ms they had. Hands-on, minds-on!

There you have it! Two hands-on activities that will help kids understand probability and statistics…and give you a little snack (great for a Friday afternoon 🙂


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And the Survey Says…

One objective of our math curriculum deals with Probability, Graphs and Statistics…uff-da! (a little Minnesotan for ya 🙂 Probability concepts are super tricky for 4th graders! So what is a nerdy teacher to do? When it comes to difficult math topics, hands-on is usually a good approach. Instead of just showing my kids graphs and having them interpret and answer questions, we made our own!

First of all, the kids chose a survey question. Popular ones included: Favorite color, animal, soda, and TV show. They took their surveys to recess, home to their families and I scheduled to visit 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms to gather data. They were so cute and professional with their clipboards:

After we gathered our data, I taught the kiddos how to make a graph in Excel.  Since this was our first adventure with Excel, I decided to make a template that the kids would use to enter their data. (Download template here:  Survey Results) This was my survey about Ice Cream Flavors:

Survey Results

Ok, so we have learned about surveys, and my kiddos understand that data and graphs aren’t just “made up”, but  they actually mean something. Next up, we have to analyze our data! I know, analyzing sounds really boring…but there are ways of making it fun! Here is what we did:

I used my graph to model and explain the different types of questions that are asked when analyzing data:

Informational Questions–Which one got the most/least votes?

Comparing Questions–How many more people liked vanilla than cookies and cream?

Inference Questions–If we asked 100 more people, how many people would most likely choose vanilla?

Then my kids wrote three questions based on the information in their graphs. Having kids write their own math questions is always interesting and requires them to think really critically about the math concept. They also had to solve their own questions so they could make an answer key.

Now the fun begins continues! I put on some upbeat music and a timer for 10 minutes and all the kids used whiteboards to go around and solve the problems (kind of like Writer’s Roundtable). They used the answer key on the back to check their answers. Of course someone asked, “What if we get them wrong?” We added an element of accountability and each kid kept track of how many they got right on their board.

And the survey says: Probability, Statistics and graphs? EASY and FUN!

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Share it Forward: Week in Rap

Oh my goodness, this week was crazy! I felt like every day I went from dawn til dark without stopping…and then, when I crawled into bed I just didn’t have the energy in my tired fingers to type a blog post! (Insert big sigh and whiny voice here 🙂  But this weekend has cured my sleepiness, and here I am on Sunday morning with a big mug o’ coffee and nimble, rested fingers ready for typing 🙂

Up first: SHARE IT FORWARD! Yes, my little Sunday tradition where I share something I have read, found, or used during the week. This week it is resources for Current Events.

Social Studies is often sorely overlooked in 4th grade because of all the other TAKS tested subject areas… so recently my team and I have decided to insert a little “Current Event” block into our schedule to keep our kids up-to-date about what’s going on in the world.

Through out the week we use to talk about current events and watch current event videos. Then on Friday we will use Flocabulary’s Week in Rap to look at things that happened around the world here is the Week in Rap from this week:

The Week in Rap – March 25 from Flocabulary on Vimeo.

We watched the Week in Rap for the first time on Friday  and my kids LOVED it. We had to watch it a twice and then we talked about all the events that were mentioned. It was only 10 minutes before lunch, but it sparked tons of good conversation. The Week in Rap is published each Friday and once you start showing it in your classroom your kids will beg you to watch it each week.

Note: Flocabulary also publishes other videos and they are all fantastic! Take a look at this rap about the 5 elements of a short story: Plot, characters, conflict, theme, setting –yes these are the 5 things that you’re gonna be needing when you’re reading or writing a short story that mad exciting! (trust me you will have this rap in your head!)

Flocabulary – Five Things (Elements of a Short Story) from Flocabulary on Vimeo.

Some Other Awesme Flocabulary Videos:

MLK: Let Freedom Ring (Black History)

Year in Rap

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You can Haiku too!

Spring has sprung, and every spring we write poetry in 4th grade! We always start out small with Haikus. I love the simplicity or Hiaku poems, with other types of poetry sometimes I feel like I don’t quite “get it”, but with Haikus I always fee like I can be a poet!

We start out our unit with a little reading unit using Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho by Dawnine Spivak. Grass Sandals is a lovely story about the Japanese poet, Basho and the kids love it. There are Japanese characters and a Haiku on each page and the illustrations are just perfect.

Next we tried our hand at Spring Haikus with very good results! Check out our Spring Haikus:

Go ahead:

write a spring haiku
playing with words and  senses
you know you want to

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Measurement 7: Discovering Capacity

Remember way back when I collected containers to teach capacity? Well I ended up with a GIGANTIC garbage bag full of milk cartons, shampoo bottles, juice containers, and water bottles and we finally used them.  I wish I would have taken a picture of all the containers arranged on my table, categorized  into baskets, you would have been impressed 🙂 I divided my kiddos into groups of 3-4 and gave them a pep talk about this being a DISCOVERY and that they would need to stretch their minds and work together. Whew, they have a tough time with this concept, but in the end they did a great job with this discovery.

First things first, here is the page from the measurement packet:

Discovering Capacity

Here is the activity:

1. Every group started out with a gallon of water, a dishpan to help with the mess factor, and a funnel (they have them 3/$1 at Dollar Tree right now!)

2. Their task was to try to figure out how many ounces, cups, pints, quarts and half gallons are in a gallon…and then to figure out everything in between. How did they do this? They picked containers from the baskets and tried to figure it out!

3. When they figured out one, they traded in their container and tried to figure out another one.

Turkey baster=1 ounce!

Everyone in the group was important for this activity...and do you see her holding up her fingers to count? There were many do-overs because they fogot to count 🙂

This was a fantastic activity for critical thinking…my heart warmed when one of my girls ran up to me and said, “Miss, we figured out how many cups is in a quart, so we can just multiply now, huh?” Woohoo!! Did they get all the answers perfectly? No. But did they have a better understanding of capacity and the relationship between units? YES, YES, YES!!

Ps. If you are tired of measurement…an end is in sight because it is SPRING BREAK next week! Who knows what I will find to blog about when I don’t have my little darlings all day long 🙂

**Check out the other measurement activities here

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Measurement 6: Perimeter and Area

We already learned the formulas and math of perimeter and area in math, so for perimeter and area in science, I wanted it to be all hands-on. Here is the page in our Measurement Packet:

Perimeter and Area

There is nothing super special about this activity, except it takes perimeter and area off the paper and lets the kids experience it for themselves.

The really fun activity we did with perimeter and area was Perimeter and Area with Google Earth! If you don’t have Google Earth on your computers you can download it free here. If you haven’t used Google Earth with your kids before, then you will want to give your students some time to just play with it the first time, it is so fun! Since we have already used Google Earth, we jumped right into using the Ruler tool to find the Perimeter and Area of very large things!

Google Earth-perimeter and area

The activity starts out with typing in the address of your school and measuring the length and width using the ruler tool on Google Earth:

Google Earth

Google Earth: Ruler

The kids loved that they could switch between units and figure out how many centimeters or miles our building is!

Next, we flew to the Pentagon:

Google Earth: Pentagon

We used the “Path” tool to find the perimeter of the Pentagon. Since we are not quite ready to find the area of a pentagon, we just found the perimeter of this one, but if you have older students you could definitely have them find the area too!

Google Earth: Lake Superior

We also used the path tool to find the perimeter of a very large, irregular shaped location: Lake Superior. Some kids were extremely particular using 20 or more points to make a perfect perimeter, others were more like me… (By the way, Lake Superior is about 63 million inches around!)

The rest of the activity has the kids measure the perimeter of the United States, Colorado, and a state of their choice. This turned out to be a very successful activity, and the kids had to have a very solid understanding of perimeter and area to complete each task.

**Find all my Measurement Packet Activities here.

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Measurement 5: Long and Short of Length

I thought that doing the unit on length would be the easiest one, using a ruler should be pretty easy, right? WRONG! When my kids had to measure something that was longer than the ruler or meter stick this is what they did:

Ummm, that’s not effective! Especially when you have to measure something longer, like a hallway:

They didn’t know what to do if they object they were measuring was longer than the measurement tool. This was one of those sub-lessons that I never intended on teaching!

But enough of that! Here are the pages we used for our length labs:

Length LabLong and Short of Length

These are super basic, but they worked really well. I had the kids work in pairs or groups of three to do the measurements. It was a little bit chaotic as kids were all over the room and out in the hallway measuring everything in sight, but they learned a lot and I could see their little brains working as they tried to figure out how tall a stack of 1000 pennies would be…”Miss, we need 1000 pennies and there are only 16 here!”

Me: “You already know the height of 10 pennies, so how can you find the height of 1000 pennies?”

Watch their wheels turn 🙂

**Find all my measurement activities and resources here!

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