Reflection: What Can We Do With Math - Section 2: Solving A Problem

At the end of today's lesson, the Educational Assistant in my classroom said that the lesson was too abstract for most of the students. I thought about that after the student's had left for the day. The problem was abstract for a reason. If I had given the students the size of the stream, they would probably have just added up the numbers and been done, but without the numbers the students had to devise a model of what they might do.

One student decided that if you threw something (a calculator was what she had) into the river you could count how many seconds it would take for it to hit the bottom and then you would know how deep the river was. Another child chose to measure using base 10 blocks. She said the river must be 20 units deep. The twenty might be arbitrary, but she didn't label it in a standard measure, but rather units because she said she didn't know what unit to use because she was only making a model.

You could change the problem and give the dimensions of the stream and ask students how they would get over the bridge if you felt it was too hard, but listening to the reasoning, I was glad I had chosen not to give students the numbers. They had to think outside the box and several of them also realized that you can't just type numbers into the calculator to get an answer if you don't know what the numbers are.

If I wanted a definite answer of how deep and how wide, then the problem was too hard, if not impossible, but because I wanted students to stretch their thinking about using math, I would use the problem again. Common Core Standards want children to be able to think about math, and to understand how math tools are used, and I think this lesson did both of those things.

Is It Too Hard?
Is It Too Hard?

What Can We Do With Math

Unit 1: What and Where is Math?
Lesson 9 of 9

Big Idea: Students have been exposed to a variety of math tools and uses. Do students know how to access these tools independently when they are faced with a problem to solve?

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Standards:
Subject(s):
Math, Measurement, Measurement and Methods, units of measurement
40 minutes