Every year, it's the same - I head to the store to buy all the materials I need to make the "gingerbread" houses for our annual tradition for the last day before winter break. As you know, the first and second grade classes will spend the morning decorating houses made from graham crackers using lots of frosting and candy. But before that can happen, Grace and I will need to actually make the houses - so off I went to buy the required graham crackers. It always takes me a few moments to remember how many each house requires, to multiply that by the number of students in my class, and then to figure how how many crackers are contained within each box. The boxes don't come out and tell you that - they generally tell you the serving size, and the number of servings. It's a whole lot of mathematically steps! I thought it would be a good lesson for the students this morning, so I brought in four boxes of the crackers I bought, and set up the problem for them. How many boxes did I need to buy to make a house for 10 students?
First I sketched out the pattern for each house:
Two whole crackers for two sides, two whole crackers tilted in for the roof, two half crackers for the shorter ends.
Then we divided into four groups and I gave each group a box of crackers and told them to read the side. Not much more instruction was given - I wanted them to "struggle" a bit.
Lots of drawing and discussion followed. Different techniques were used, but two groups came up with the answer within about 10 minutes - 2 boxes, with 2 crackers left over (for the builder!). Other groups needed some adult help to work it out, but were able to be successful in the end.
This type of mini math project is perfect in that it demonstrates to children how important math is in everyday life. But the question remains - what am I going to do with 2 extra boxes of graham crackers?