Happy New Years! I hope that this year will be wonderful and fun! I can’t say that I am entirely excited to start after winter break, but I do love that we have a few solid weeks of school. It really feels like time to get to work.
One of my very favorite things about teaching is the problem solving that I get to do everyday. Last year I was teaching about how multiplication can be used to describe a comparison and it went pretty terrible. My kids were very confused, did not do well on several of my assessments, and weren’t having any fun. My team and I worked it out with some hard work and reteaching, but this year I was so excited to give the unit another try.
I think part of the difficulty in teaching multiplicative comparisons is it can be hard to show students how it is useful and applicable in their lives. To help introduce the concept I listed a whole bunch of comparison facts on the board. For example, the sun’s diameter is 400 times bigger than the moon’s or that an ant can carry 100 times it’s body weight. I then showed my students a website done by National Geographic. It compares things to the size of a blue whale. They went crazy for this. Using the website we wrote in their math journals comparison statements and equations. For example for the screen shot below we wrote “the blue whale is 3 times as big as a school bus,” as the comparison statement.
After this my students were ready to start making their own comparisons. We started by comparing a glue stick to items in our classroom. I passed out the glue sticks and they started measuring. This allowed them to get hands on experience comparing sizes of things and using multiplication to discuss the comparison. They filled out a chart that helped them write the equations and comparison statements.
My students were then ready to start drawing and understanding comparisons they might see in homework. We practiced this a lot in the next few days by completing charts. We also played a game that is hands down my kids favorite math game so far this year. We call it Snatch, but you might recognize it as Spoons. Students play the game by passing around cards with with multiplicative comparisons models, statements, and equations. They try to gain a match and then sneakily snatch a pencil from the center of the circle. The person left without a pencil loses that round. It was a total hit in our room and they still often ask if they can play (this game, all the charts, and glue stick activity are available here).
Overall this unit went a million times better than it had in the past. I know my kids did much better on my unit assessments and I know they feel confident in the their skills. I really feel like it was a teaching win.