Mathematics concepts are much more meaningful when they are rooted in real life situations. If you stop to think about it, we all use math ALL THE TIME. When children understand the reason we ask them to do basic operations, or to use measurement, logic, or estimation, they begin to know the importance and value of math.
Just last week, as I was in the cracker aisle at my local store, I was trying to figure out how many boxes I would need in order to make 14 graham cracker cottages for Friday’s special activity. As I was thinking about this, I also thought about what a great real-life problem it would make for my math students.
I started by asking the students what they would need to know before they could help me get enough boxes. They answered:
· You need to know how many students are in the classroom
· You need to know how many crackers are needed for each house
· You need to know how many crackers are in each box
Then we practiced estimation. We did this last week when we estimated how many popcorn kernels were in a glass container, so this was additional practice. Just looking at the size of the box, most children thought that I would need about 3 boxes to build 14 little houses.
Children worked in small groups to try to figure it out. They knew that 5 whole sheets were needed for each house (4 whole crackers for the long sides and the roof pieces, and 1 whole cracker cut in half for the short sides). Some children could multiply 14 by 5 by various methods, and some added 14 five times. All groups came up with the number 70.
Then they needed to figure out how many crackers were in the box. The box did not make it easy on us, as the side panel said that there are “approximately 29 servings” and each serving was “8 crackers”. But, wait! A whole sheet of cracker was considered 4 crackers! My, this was getting confusing.
Finally, we decided that 2 whole crackers was one serving, and that 29 X 2 or 29+29 would give us how many crackers in the box (or 58). Since I needed 70 crackers, I needed one whole box and 12 whole sheets from a second box. Which equals lots of leftovers for us to eat at snack time!