Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is this math or scissor skills?

I went over the A's school this morning for my usual volunteer session. 2 different teachers had combined their top math groups and sent them all out into the hall with one assistant. So, 12 kids in the hall, with one assistant when I showed up. That project was going ok, although 12:1 ratio doesn't make it much of a "small group" considering the classes are only 16 kids.

The kids finished up that assignment. The assistant showed me the next assignment. We both went "huh?" After reading it through several times, we figured out what the kids were supposed to do, but it was poorly planned. They had rectangles for the kids to cut out - in units of 1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, and 1/9. Different number of each size. But did they draw out how many 1/4 to cut out? Oh no, that would be too easy. Instead, they wanted the kids to cut out the 1/4, then trace it and cut out another. But once you've cut all the initial rectangles out, you have to try to remember how many of each size.

So we had groups of kids trying to cut out rectangles, trace them, cut out more rectangles. Trying to figure out if they have too many or not enough of each particular size. It was a mess. And then there's the fact that there's not that much difference in size between a 1/5 and a 1/6, especially when you have 3rd graders cutting them out.

After cutting out all 21 pieces, they were supposed to line them up to make 5 1-unit-long rectangles. One group could have fit 6 of the 1/5 unit onto the 1-unit rectangle they were supposed to glue them onto. They knew it should only take 5, but their cutting and drawing skills were lacking. Another group managed to fit 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/4 all onto one line and didn't see anything wrong with that.

I pointed out to the teacher that this was poorly designed. She said, "But this is supposed to be a challenge. They have to think." Yes, but the challenge was to their fine motor skills, not to their math skills!

We briefly had 2 adults to 12 kids at the beginning of this assignment, but then the assistant had to move on to another class, leaving me with all 12 (somewhat confused) kids.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope I get to work with reading "Paul Revere" again tomorrow! I'd have gone batty with the math challenge, since I'm not all that great with scissors, either.

8:04 PM  

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