For the past two weeks the fifth graders have been learning about the metric system. They have applied their knowledge of powers of ten to convert units within the metric system. In order to apply this skill, we created a scenario that required our students’ help. We decided that we wanted to recover our bulletin board, but figured out that there was not quite enough paper to do so. Without the option of using the school provided paper, we thought it would be a good idea to provide our students with a real life learning experience. As we were determining what to do as teachers, we decided to put the responsibility on our students. In an effort to create a tangible learning experience, the students determined how we could solve our problem of covering the bulletin board.
The students were provided with the measurement of the bulletin board in meters, but were given the measurement of the construction paper in centimeters. You could immediately see the light bulbs go on as the students knew that the measurements had to be in the same unit in order to solve the problem.
“I knew I had to change the meters into centimeters so I could figure out how much paper I needed.” - Aman
“My first thought was figuring out how many centimeters I needed to cover the bulletin board.” - Talia
Some students chose to solve my problem mathematically. Others immediately went to the bulletin board and simulated covering it with construction paper. It was so interesting to see the different paths students chose to solve this problem. While the students’ strategies may have been different, the one thing that was common throughout was the level of engagement.