Tuesday we had a fun math lesson based on the book Counting on Frank. The book is about a boy who uses math to come up with a lot of different answers to a whole lot of amazing questions. The boys thought the book was funny, and it's loaded with math lesson possibilities not to mention all the goodies in the back of the book that would require a lot of extra digging. However, we went with the basic lesson to learn about estimation. To prepare for the lesson I not only read Counting On Frank, but I also read a chapter on estimating in the book A Collection Of Math Lessons (have I mentioned how much I love this book??) This allowed me to stretch our lesson out a bit more as well as touch on a few topics I hadn't thought of.
First we read the story, and then we discussed the words calculate and estimate. The boys copied these words and their definitions to their math notebooks. Then I explained that when we estimate we don't always have enough information to know what kind of guess to make, so any guess will do. I really wanted to stress (something suggested in the Collection math book) that estimating/guessing a wrong answer was perfectly acceptable. This is a big deal for us because we have one who panics when he gets something wrong. So for him to understand that sometimes wrong answers are perfectly acceptable and we can learn from them was great.
Next I showed the boys a small green gift box and one normal sized marble. I said we were going to try and figure out how many marbles fit in that little box, but before we did I wanted them to guess, or estimate, how many they felt would fit. Then the white board was labeled with numbers from 1 - 40. I explained to the boys that we were all going to write our names on a post-it note. I dragged Mr Scarecrow into the room for this because I needed another person to cast an estimation. Once the kids placed their post-its underneath a number Mr Scarecrow and I placed our numbers post-its under the same number. I then took the opportunity to use the term Number Range, which they both readily knew and accepted much to my surprise and delight. Then, the real reason for dragging Mr Scarecrow away from his work, I explained that on our graph we had a mode. We also jotted that word and it's answer down in our math notebook. We used the term mode, each time we had a chance to really enforce what it meant.
After that I said we'd count the marbles as we dropped them in our box, but they were not to panic if their number came and went. So we started counting. We hit 40 and the box was half full. I pointed out that the box was now half full and asked them if they'd like to change their estimation (this was another great idea from the collections book, see why I love it so much?) All of us changed our answers and the boys were eager to put their number on mine so we could have another mode. I reminded them that I didn't know the correct answer any more then they did and so they were welcome to match my number, but to choose the number they most wanted.
Our whiteboard had to be erased and renumbered because clearly we didn't have high enough numbers on it. That was a small catch to our math lesson, but it proved the point that I truly didn't know the answer and my estimation was as much of a guess as the boys. We also didn't have a mode after we all moved our numbers, but that was okay, we still had the opportunity to check and see if we had one and discuss that our number range had changed.
Then we continued to fill our box until we had it full. We determined that it was full when we could put the lid on and it sat properly on top. Our box held 86 average sized marbles. The kids were impressed and decided they wanted to do it again. So I pulled out the unifex cubes and showed them the difference in size compared to a marble. Then we estimated how many of those we could get in our box and we tried it again. After that while Morgan was willing to keep going Jayden was done, so we packed it away. We'll try lentils or popcorn kernels another day, and we still have a measurement lesson to do based on the book. Plus, I think the boys will have fun answering some of the crazy math questions in the back of the book!
Now, before you think I came up with this lesson completely on my own, I didn't. The idea comes from the book Meeting Math Standards With Favorite Picture Books. There are heaps of books with a variety of math lessons inside, and there's an even bigger index in the back with many more books that one could build their own lessons from. I decided to expand the lessons in the book we used, and I also checked a few of my other resources in order to pack as much into one lesson in the most leisurely way possible. When the kids ask to do it again or to keep going then I feel the lesson is a success, needless to say this was one of those lessons!