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Can home made math be used in a classroom?

about Classroom setting Education methods FAQ

We've spent the last few weeks looking a various educational methods often used in homeschooling. From Unschooling to Classical Education, Charlotte Mason, Reggio Inspired, Montessori and Waldorf. But what about those in a classroom setting? Can home made math be used with in a traditional classroom setting?

home made maths in a classroom setting pretty exercise book

A quick history...

I completed my Bachelor of Education in Middle Schooling, a degree that qualified me to teach Prep/Kindergarten through to year 12 (majoring in maths and minoring in I.T.), and while I only taught for one year, mainly in high school but in a Central School so I had occasion to teach primary every fortnight, I completed several Primary and High School setting long practicals over the course of my degree. I tell you this to just give you my background experience in a classroom setting, but my inspiration for writing this post starts when my now two year old was not yet 6 months old and I had this wild idea in the middle of the night that perhaps I could write hands on, beautiful maths activities that would be useful to homeschoolers. The first activity I wrote up was a Narnian activity on measurement and scale (which I hope to share with you soon!). I showed this activity to two of my friends for their opinion. One was a homeschooling mother, the other was a primary school teacher. Both were encouraging, but I was surprised by the teacher's response. While I was proud of the activity, I assumed it was the sort of activity that many teachers would  come up with - my thoughts being to mainly to try an inspire those parents who how found maths dull at school; to help them make maths come alive to their children at home. My lovely friend was ecstatic (she's really such a lovely friend I wish you knew her, because I cannot convey her animation in text). She'd never been inspired by maths herself at school and instantly declared she never would have thought of combining maths and art in this way and "how fabulous! I would totally love to do this with my class! They'd LOVE it!" But of course! (insert palm to forehead) Teachers have had similar experiences to parents. Some have had positive maths experiences and some, sadly, have not. Or even if they have a love of maths, have they also a love of art? Or have they time to sit around daydreaming (my baby fed A LOT at that time) and coming up with creative ways to integrate maths into their art, science, history, literacy? This unique person (ME!), in this unique period in their life, might have a never to repeated chance to contribute to society!... you will remember I was sleep deprived :D but in all seriousness I think you will find home made math is a unique resource. But, back to our original question...

Can home made math be used in a classroom?

Yes! Occasionally you will find you need to make adjustments, and predominantly the activities will be best suited to small groups. However, I'm confident teachers will be able to do this with ease.

home made math how big is a bear free measurement activity stage 1 early learning Little house in the big woods

Let us take the "How Big is a Bear?" activity as an example that may be completed as a whole class.

The classroom will be set up with the life size bear on one wall, covered with a sheet. The teacher leads the whole class in a discussion on how big they estimate a bear would be (leading from reading Little House in the Big Woods or ANY other text about bears).

The teacher then reveals the life size bear on the wall, and tells the class this is how big a bear is! But how would you explain to your friend or parent (who had never seen a bear) how big a bear is? This topic should naturally point to the need of a unit of measure, and the appropriate demonstration of the "no gaps or overlaps" technique, be it through discussion or trail and error by the children.

Depending on class size the students then split into pairs and measure different parts of the bear (possibly recording their results) OR the teacher selects several students to each measure the height of the bear and compare results. Students then practice their technique by measuring different objects around the classroom to find items the same size as each of their measurements (see the activity). 

Optional: go out side and have kids (in pairs or small groups) draw with chalk a life size bearing using their new measuring  techniques.

Conclusion: each child states or records 1 sentence describing how big a bear is.

home made math balance scales recipe equal weight fruit cake free activity

What about an activity such as "Equal Weight Fruit Cake"?

Some schools will be lucky enough to have the resources to implement this activity in pairs or small groups as written, however if not it could be adjusted as follows.

A classroom maybe set up for small group work, with groups of 3-4 children rotating through arranged activities. The fruit cake activity will be one activity amoung several such as: a work sheet completing balance scale drawings, a literacy activity on procedures/recipes, a simple division activity with manipulatives, and a station with a sets of balance scales and loose parts for open exploration.

At the fruit cake table set up:

  • a balance scale, or two
  • a carton of fake eggs (these maybe the shaker eggs that musicians use or the eggs placed in hen coops to encourage laying, but they should have weight about them),
  • real sugar (or sand),
  • real flour and
  • real butter (or yellow play dough)
  • several small bowls

In large clear font, or pictures, present the recipe and ask the students to place in separate bowls the correct amount of each ingredient (or ask them to place the correct amount to make half a cake). They can then place all these bowls on a tray with their "team's" label, and each team's effort can be compared and tested at the end of the lesson, and perhaps you can let the winning team have cake you prepared earlier ;) 

If you have any questions about the home made math units or how other activities could be adjusted please email me if there is a lot of interest I'm happy to keep writing up classroom adjustments here on the blog.

Xx Becky

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