Making Equal Groups Part 1

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Students will be able to create equal groups given guidelines.

Big Idea

Third grade students will be using equal groups the entire school year. It is imperative that they understand how to create and manipulate them. This lesson will help them explore various ways of working with equal groups.

Mini Lesson

10 minutes

As the students gather at our community center, I ask them to think about things that come in equal groups. After a short time, they turn and share with their partner in a turn-and-talk.  As I listen, I pick out a few good examples as well as some that don't make sense, and write them on the board. 

I give the students my thumb's up, indicating they should complete their conversations, turn towards me and listen. I direct their attention to the list I create from what I've heard:

pop tarts

packs of gum

yugioh cards


We discuss if each of these items really do come in equal groups, and what that term means.  I guide the students to the idea of candy.  Do we really know each bag or box has the same amount?  No. They are most likely close, but not always equal.  

I then ask if we can create equal groups of 2, if we use everyone in our math class (we have 18). I suggest they try.  Then I ask them to see if they can stand in equal groups of 3? Of 5? Of 4?

Active Engagement

25 minutes

I give the students directions for an activity.  The materials are simple - several cups filled with small objects (pennies, colored chips, cubes, etc.) with a plastic spoon.  

Student Instructions:

Get two scoops of objects and count the total.

Roll a die to determine the group size and organize their objects accordingly.  

Count how many equal groups they could make and write any left overs. 

As the students work, I visit with each partnership and discuss what they are doing and why.  This is my time to see if they notice any patterns, prompt/model vocabulary to help build their math vocabulary, and help with any misconceptions. The following clips are examples of how I "intervene", and show students at different levels of understanding.

These girls work through the activity properly, so I talk with them about "why" they are using the number 6. I want my students to become very skilled at recognizing what number names the group size.

The boys in this clip are excited to see that they can "do it", meaning there are no remainders in their first model.  I will make sure to visit them again and see if they have remainders in their chart.  I want them to be able to explain why there might be remainders.

This student is still working to understand what an equal group is.  He is simply moving the objects apart and not organizing at all. This is a time that I would do a one-on-one mini lesson reviewing how to create an equal group and help him learn exactly what it is. 

Wrap up and Sharing

10 minutes

As a wrap up, I put two spoonfuls of cubes under the projector and have partnerships come up to roll the die and then do the grouping.  I do this 9 times, as I have 18 students.  

During the work, I ask the audience to "predict" how many groups the presenter might have and if there will be any left overs. They share this information with their partner in the community area. This type of review is always motivating, as the audience is engaged in trying to figure out the solution before the presenters. Now the entire class is working, not just the two at the board.