So often in Math education we compartmenalize the student's learning. We do our Integer unit separate from our Fraction unit, which is separate from our Algebra unit, and so on for the year. The more reading I am doing on Math education, the more I am starting to question this organizational strategy for Math. When my husband and I put in new underground irrigation we used all our Math skills inter connected, and I wonder if we set up students for "real-life" math problems when we just focus on one or two skills at a time, instead of using all our number and reasoning skills at once.
So with this in mind, I thought that I would try something new. With Halloween coming up, I thought that I would use pumpkins as a Math unit. And really I was not too sure what I was going to do with them, but I wanted to do a thematic approach to math and measurement skills. The more I researched, the more I saw other teacher units using pumpkings and bring in measurement, grouping, graphing, correlation and so forth. This seemed like a fun hands-on activity that might bring some zest into our Math classroom.
On our first day of our pumpkin unit, I asked the students what we could use a pumpkin for in Math. I wanted to see what they come up with as far as skills we could look at and study. Most of them went right away to the idea of measurement, so that is where we started. I asked them to collect 8 pieces of data on their pumpkin and to make sure that they were doing a proper mathematical diagram to symbolize what the number represented. As this went, I realized that the idea of drawing a 3D shape and then putting on the proper dimensions with arrows and lines to show what you are truely measuring was a great place to start. So then we spent the next day talking about how to set up diagrams, show 3D measurement on a 2D sheet of paper, etc. Then we went on to look at the internal measurement potential. Day 3 was counting seeds, grouping seeds, and looking at fraction diagrams. Day 4 was using fraction equations to season and roast the pumpkin seeds (yumm!), and then day 5 was carving a Math Symbol pumpkin face!
The feedback that I got back from the students was very positive.
A couple of learning moments for next time. In order to have the carving done on Halloween I ended up rushing through the graphing portion. I think that I would maybe try to double block Math during this unit, so that I could spend more time on the graphing day. That is still an area that students really struggle with. We also ran into the issue of rotting pumpkins (with a weekend in there the pumpkins were gutted and inside for one week...too long) But on the plus side, we had some beautiful mold to look at under the microscopes. So really....science and math in one lesson! What fun!
This post is courtesy of Shona Becker
For another example of a thematic unit in math see the following 2 posts:
Christmas Toy Project Part I (Math 9)