Archive for Math

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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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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Measurement: Introduction

So this begins a series of posts about MEASUREMENT….begin!

We remember the types of measurement with this simple mnemonic device: TLVCDT…yeah, NO! There is no simple way to learn and remember the types of measurement: Temperature, length, volume, capacity, density and time–oh, my!

According to our state testing, measurement is one of the lowest scoring objectives. Why is it that kids have such a difficult time understanding measurement? Maybe it’s because we have to teach them TWO different systems, why can’t we just pick customary or metric?! But no, somehow we have to get them to understand that inches and centimeters, grams and ounces. It is like comparing apples and oranges–both fruit, but totally different. (No, no, you can’t report length as 6 inches and 1 centimeter!) And don’t even get me started on capacity!

In light of that, I decided to create a science unit dedicated to measurement. That way I give them a double dose: converting measurement in math, and hands-on measurement in science– bam, they won’t even know what hit ’em! So here we go! Over the next several days I’ll post about my Measurement Packet and all the measurement activities, stay tuned!

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CHAOS! Review Game

Has anyone else noticed that we are at the time of year when the kids need a lot of interaction and motivation to keep working hard?…spring fever has set in hard! A few weeks ago I shared the review game ZAP!, today I’m going to share another game that I named CHAOS! (Hmmm, do all the review games I invent need to be be capitalized with an exclamation point? I guess I want to emphasize how exciting they are 🙂   I pulled this game out of my bag of tricks this week and I thought I would share with y’all. I have used this game to review in math and to spice up test prep with multiple choice questions. Ps: Don’t try this game if you aren’t willing to put up with a little CHAOS!

Here is how it works:

1. I make sets of cards with questions on them–I usually make 4 of each card like this:

Length Perimeter and area review game

2. I print them out on card stock and laminate them…or you could just print them out and have the kids do the work on another sheet of paper.

3. Then I put each stack of questions on a desk or table:

4. Next, put kids into teams…I put them into 3-4 groups and then have each team break into partners. So each team will be working together for points, but will be working in pairs.

5. Start each pair with different cards, for example one pair gets card #1, another team gets card #2 etc… then it’s ready, set, go! Everybody starts working on their problem:

6.When they finish with their first card they bring it up to me and I check it:

That is me behind there checking a can also see the chaos going on around me as kids put up points and work on cards...
7. If they are correct they get to go to the SMARTBoard and roll the dice. Whatever number they get is how many points they add to their team:

8. Then they put their card back on the stack, get the next number and keep going until time is up!

9. At the end of the game we add up all the numbers and dub a winner… the nice thing about this game is it has a lot of skill and little luck!

The game usually takes about 15 minutes of intense activity, but the kids are super engaged and there is tons of learning going on! During this particular game of CHAOS! I heard these comments: “Wait, it says perimeter, do we need to add or multiply?”, “Is customary inches or centimeters?”, “Check the math chart for how many centimeters is in a meter!”, “Miss O said that when it’s a square we can multiply the sides by 4, right?” Trust me, I can’t inspire that kind of math thinking…but a little bit of CHAOS! goes a long way.

Here are some resources and ideas:

Download my Perimeter and Area CHAOS! game here:  PDF Publisher

Download my CHAOS Scoreboard for SMARTBoard here: Score Board (Chaos)

You can certainly play this game without a SMARTBoard, just use a regular dice and whiteboard…I played this game all the time pre-interactive whiteboard 🙂

Other CHAOS games:

  • Multiplication Word Problems:  PDF Word
  • Multi-Step Word Problems:  PDF Word
  • 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication: PDF Word
  • Long Division: PDF Word

Make your own CHAOS game: CHAOS Template

*Pssst check out other games I’ve posted about here

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Fact Ball!

This year my 4th graders had SUCH a difficult time memorizing their multiplication facts…and I tried everything! I wish you could understand the depths of my frustration, it was like they were intentionally trying not to learn them. My usual tricks just weren’t going to cut it with this group– so I invented the FACT BALL! Ok, so maybe I didn’t invent it, but you know that the first rule of being a Nerdy Teacher is that we beg, borrow and steal. So, what is the FACT BALL, you may ask? Let me show you:

I took a regular, old playground ball I bought on clearance at Walmart and a blue sharpie marker, and commenced to write products all over it!

Products I Used: 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28. 32, 36, 42, 46, 48, 49, 52, 54, 56, 63, 64, 72 (I don’t use  5s or 10s, too easy!)

That is literally all the prep work!

So here is how you play:

1. I let my kids sit on their desks with their feet on their chair…but you could just all stand in a circle.

*Note we are in mid-game here. I play it with my kids before lunch, after they do their fact, they line up.

2. Say a classmates name and toss the ball to them.

3. The person who catches the ball looks at the number closest to their right thumb, and has to say a math fact for that product. So for this one, the student would say 7 x 3. Of course some products like 36 might have several different facts!

Can’t you just see the concentration on her face? Seriously, this game requires so much more concentration than just doing math facts–and it gets the kiddos ready for division!

4.  Toss the ball to the next  person, and the game continues! (until everyone lines up for lunch, or you run out of time!)

And that, my friends, is FACT BALL! To add a twist, you can put a time limit on each toss or have the kids close their eyes until their name is called. My kids LOVE this game, they even ask to take the ball out to recess and play by themselves. Seriously. If you every find yourself with 5 minutes to kill, I highly recommend whipping up a FACT BALL!

Do you have any tricks to help your kids learn their math facts?

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