Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fractions, Decimals, and Percents: Kinesthetic Math Idea

You're teaching fractions, decimals, and percents inside the classroom. Outside, it's sunny and 75 degrees. Some kids are taking sideways glances toward the window. Others aren't even trying to hide it, they blatantly stare out the window. Heck, even you are looking out the window at the beautiful day. Why not have the best of both worlds?

You can. It's easy. Read on.

1 sport ball for each group  (soccer ball, four-square ball, spongy ball)
1 data sheet for each group
1 clipboard for each group
Pencils, calculators (optional)

What To Do
I tell the class that we are going to apply math into a real world situation. We are going to see who is going to represent the class in the "World Championship of Knee and Head Juggling". I tell them that we will determine who is going to represent the class by keeping track of their percentages for each activity: head juggling (consecutive bounces of the ball using their head) and knee juggling (consecutive bounces using their knees and feet).

This scenario helps create a need to learn how to find percentages so they can determine if they will represent the class.

I teach a quick mini-lesson on how to change a fraction into a decimal and a decimal into a percent. For further explaination I also show either a BrainPop video, or StudyJams video (see a post about StudyJams here).

I create small groups by pulling sticks. The students gather a clipboard, data sheet, calculator, and a sport ball. We head outside!

Once outside, I show the students how each challenge is accomplished. I explain the roles of the partners. They aren't picking daisies, they have to work too. For example, while one partner is doing the challenge, the other partners are either counting the number of consecutive juggles, or recording the results in the data chart.

For knee juggles I set the maximum of consecutive bounces to 12. So, if a student manages to bounce the ball 4 times it would be 4 out of 12 or 4/12.

For head juggles, I set the maximum to 10. Percentages of 10 are simpler than 12, and may lead to pattern discovery as they go.

Good Tip
Make a partner find another partner's percentage. More often than not, the student who actually did the activity will be looking over the shoulder of his/her partner making sure they are calculating it correctly (two students engaged instead of one).

Once everyone is finished, we head back to analyze the data to determine who will represent the class in the World Championship.  We also reflect upon any patterns they may have noticed, (e.g. finding the percent of a decimal is easy if you know that you move the decimal to the right two places). We also talk about some other areas we could use the math skills we learned.

It's a win-win for both you and your students. You get some educating and applicable learning done on a beautiful day. They get to have fun while learning--always a good thing.

I hope you get to use this idea in (or out of) your own classroom.

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