Picture This!

Paws Along the Trail: making a mental Iditarod picture

Do my students understand what multiplication actually represents?   For example, that 8 x 42 is 8 rows of 42, or 8 groups of 42? I want them to learn to form mental  images when they see  math symbols.

Day 1 goal: give a thinking/doing problem  to establish a connection with what  21 x 12 means.

Each group received blocks and yarn along with the problem and no further instructions.  They had 15 minutes to represent the math problem 21 x 12.

The initial problem

End result: lots of frustration and confusion. The plan is to tweak the problem following day, helping students make make more sense of the problem, yet still allowing them to explore.

Day 2 goal: give the same thinking/doing problem, but with a “hook” to real life. I showed a photo from Jeff Schultz of dog teams resting in rows at a checkpoint. We talked about how mushers begin the race with 16 dogs, and might need to drop dogs at checkpoints for various reasons:  health precaution, attitude, or strategy.  I then emphasized that the problem was to represent 21 teams each having 12 dogs left, using  blocks and string. Totally different response! Students went right to work and were VERY creative with their string, even creating ganglines and tuglines for their teams. I allowed 20 minutes.

End result: clear visual representations of 21 x 12, with every student looking happy and confident.

Teacher lesson learned?  Teaching students to assign a mental picture to math equations leads to better understanding.  Using dogs and the Iditarod adds to the fun!  Adapt this representation technique to all different mathematic operations.

Other Iditarod Teacher News:

There’s still time to sign up for the Iditarod Fall Conference, October 14, 15!  Come learn from mushers, a trail vet, and Teachers on the Trail™ on how to motivate your students in math, reading, art, and other content curriculums by incorporating the Iditarod.  Email Diane Johnson at djohnson@iditarod.com for more information!