## Quick, Cheap, and Easy STEM Lesson Kids Love

I did this with a group of kids during my summer camp, but this could just as easily be done during a classroom engineering lesson. We built soda straw rockets to land on Mars.

What was Mars you ask? Mars was a simple circle taped to the floor with masking tape.

You need is the printable which consists of rocket fins and body, and then you need straws, tape, and a sharpened pencil…and of course Mars!

Here is a synopsis of the building directions. Students take the rectangle and wrap it around their pencil lengthwise to make a tube. Then they tape the fins at the bottom. Next they scrunch the top of the tube around the point of the sharp end of the pencil to make a cone.

Next, they pull out the pencil and insert the straw. Now they are ready to blow through the straw to make the rocket land somewhere.

I wanted to give them a target which is why I made Mars. Students had to measure and record how far away from Mars they landed.

I could have made it more difficult by using rulers so there would be some conversation involved, but I just made it simple and let them use yardsticks. Surprisingly, some students had the yardstick turned around and measurement still proved to be an issue.

If they didn’t reach Mars, they had to go back and redesign their rocket to make it fly closer. Now, what if they did land on Mars the first time? Well, I just made them see if they could make their rocket fly differently, for example, could they make the rocket spin while it flew.

The best part is this whole lesson and rocket parts printable are here free on the NASA website.

## Don’t Cause This Misconception When Teaching Angles!

We all have started out teaching right angles like this…

“Okay, class this is a right angle.”

But, have we left it at that and gone on to teach other terms such as acute and obtuse?

Then students are left to draw their own conclusions when faced with this.

Obviously to a child, this is a left angle because it is facing the opposite direction and the opposite of right is left!

Or if left to their own conclusions, this is a left, down angle.

And, yes, all of the angles pictured above are in fact…right angles.

It is up to you to make sure students see angles in lots of different directions so that they do not form misconceptions about angles.

So how can students test to make sure that right angles are, in fact, right. Well, they can just use a paper corner such as a sticky note or the corner of their paper.

Each time they come across an angle they can put the paper corner in the angle to know if it fits exactly. If it fits exactly, it is right! If it covers one of the sides (rays) of the angle, it is acute and if one of the rays of the angle sticks out, it is obtuse…but that is another post for another day 🙂

## Are You Taller Than a Third Grader?

With the combination of special programs and snow days, our time to teach all of the standards before our 3rd graders’ PARCC test is running out. With this in mind, I made a graph to help third grade out using the data from the whole 3rd grade with a fraction line plot. This type of graph and fractions are not as familiar to third graders because they haven’t been exposed to line plots in earlier grade levels. I put the graph in a central location where other grade levels could see it. That way other students could experience measurement and interpreting graphs as well.

I started out with an area by the water fountains for repeated exposure to student traffic.

Next I put up a strip of this amazing ruler like tape that I got at Office Depot when they had all of their special masking tape at back-to-school time. The tape counts every 12 inches. So in the picture below, I marked off every twelve inches with little triangles that mentioned that each 12 inches was 1 foot. Next, I marked off the fractions of an inch with stickers. I marked off the halves, thirds, and fourths so that students could easily see the relationship between the graph and the tape measure.

Then I had students come a few at a time and measure themselves to the closest fraction of a foot. Students recorded their X’s on sticky notes. The only reason I had them record their X’s on sticky notes is because this ensured having them all the same size. Line plots can make data look skewed if students don’t draw their X’s the same size. Plus on the PARCC assessment when students drag X’s on the line plot graph questions, students drag the X’s into little boxes which makes test question boxes resemble sticky notes. Students got to initial their X. Also, if students in the least bit chuckled about anyone else’s height because they were short, I immediately told them they wouldn’t even get to put an X on the graph. After I graphed most of the students from two classes, I only had two students who didn’t get to put their X on the graph because of this reason.

Here is the whole picture of everything with a more than willing model :)…

## What NOT to Do with Dry Erase Markers!

Ya’ll are going to love this one!! Just when the custodian was fussing about the painters tape on the floor and my door being open…I did a doozy….

Since I have been working with lots of intervention groups, I am trying to teach them concepts in a short amount of time while I have them out of the classroom. Yesterday I thought I would work on some measurement estimation. I gave the students 3 choices to estimate the length of a car. 12 inches, 12 feet, and 12 yards. Since these students don’t have a lot of experience with measurement, I had many students say 12 inches or 12 yards so….

I saw the need to draw on the floor *with a dry erase marker* of course! I drew a 12 inch line with a ruler, a 12 foot line with 12 rulers, and a 12 yard line with yard sticks so students could see the difference. They were easily able to see that the 12 foot line was the best estimate.

Then it came time to rub the line off the floor and whadaya know…but…you guessed it…the dry erase marker wouldn’t budge off the floor! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! Oh, no! Well, after soliciting some help

someone suggested dry erase board cleaner…and it worked! YAY!

Now if I had it to do over, I would still write on the floor because it didn’t take too much elbow grease to rub off–and the floor is like a new giant white board with endless possibilities!

## Painter’s Tape Strikes Again…

In all honesty my goal was to really use painter’s tape on the floor to make polygons in the first place, but I took a detour with painters tape on this geometry. I just love the fact that floor tiles are actually a square foot– so with that in mind, I had to stick a little area and perimeter lesson down on the floor.

Where did I stick the shapes?

You guessed it! Near the bathroom of course! After all, what other location in the entire school gets more visibility than the bathroom!

For the triangle and octagon I wrote inch measurements on the diagonal lines to help the students calculate the perimeter without a measurement tool. You can’t see that in the pictures.

I numbered the shapes so that they could be matched to an answer key. I was trying to leave in a hurry so I didn’t quite get finished with the answer key. That will be coming soon.

Now, I did think to ask one of the evening custodians if this would be a problem, but she didn’t think so. Well, the next morning, I got a “hmmmph!” The day custodian immediately let me know that the tape had already come off of the floor a bit and asked me how long it would be there.

I said, “not long,” with a smirk.

He informed me that we had gotten second place for the cleanest school last year and showed me his plaque.

I said, “Well, we’ll be the most mathematical school.”

I’m leaving the tape down for a good 4 weeks ;D.

## Do You Need Some More Math Activities for Math Night?

Take a look at these exciting photos of our recent Family Math Night. Originally we had scheduled Family Math Night on the 100th Day of school to build more momentum for the event, but we had to reschedule Math Night due to weather. I’m mainly including activities that we hadn’t done before, and I will include links to former math nights so you can get even MORE ideas!

To start, tables with parent information were set up in the hallway. The more inviting and fun student tables were set up inside the cafeteria.

Since many parents are unfamiliar with ten frames (I had never heard of them until I had started teaching), we had a table informing them of how ten frames work.

Then we had an information table showing the parents of 2nd and 3rd graders addition and subtraction strategies. Parents even had an opportunity to see how base ten blocks were used to do regrouping.

Here is a station explaining to parents how Reflex Math works. We had a laptop set up to show parents Reflex Math from a kid’s perspective.

One teacher put together game packets for parents to play math games with their children at home.

Now it’s time for the fun stuff!

Below you will see beach balls with math facts written all over them using Sharpie permanent markers. When someone catches the ball, the right thumb’s landing spot determines the math fact that must be answered. We had large beach balls for the kids to play with and small ones for them to take home. We ordered the beach balls from Oriental Trading Company.

How many books will it take for YOU to weigh 100 pounds? That is the question that students had to answer when they stopped at this station. Students estimated how many heavy encyclopedias it would take for them to weigh 100 pounds. Having experiences with measurement is the best way for students to make reasonable estimates with measurement.

Uh-oh! Looks like he picked up too many books, but he’s close!

Fractions beckoned to students’ interests under the guise of a messy pudding party. Students had to measure out two cups of milk without using a 1 cup measuring cup. They had to use ½, ⅓, or ¼ measuring cup . Doing so made them repeat these measurements until they had milk equivalent to 2 cups.

What is Math Night without estimation stations?

I have done estimation stations every year we have had Math Night, but I wanted to do a little something different this year.

Instead of just having the estimation jar, ziploc baggies were placed in front of the jars with 10 of the candy item inside. This helped students make more precise estimates. I also had a wild idea about gluing base ten blocks together to see who could come the closest to estimating the total of the blocks in a base ten tower.

How many are in this base ten structure? Can you guess?

(above) I know the tower looks more like the leaning tower of Pisa than anything of mathematical value–it looks like a hot mess–a hot glue gun mess ;). What can I say…I think I should pose like one of Charlie’s Angels with my hot glue gun!

(below) Making 10 groups of 10 was a kid favorite last year and remained a kid favorite this year. Kids took small food items and grouped them on a mat. They got to eat their 10 groups of 10/100 items when they had filled up their mat! Yummy!

(below) Where did Freddy the Frog land on the hundred’s chart? These kids played Toss and Guess, a game with a giant hundreds chart grid and a beanbag–in this case a bean bag frog. The idea for the grid and the Toss and Guess game came from The Learning Carpet. Kids received prizes when they guessed where the frog landed correctly.

Below is my absolute favorite booth of all booths! How many hulas can you hoop? Students hula hooped until they could hula no more. Then they counted their hulas and wrote the total of their hulas on a piece of paper. They stuck this paper to the wall so other students could compete with the highest total. The two hula hoopers with the greatest number of hulas won a hula hoop!

The following made the evening worth while. This parent solved math problems with her Pre-K student. She helped him count on her fingers! This embodied the goal of the whole evening–helping parents connect to their children through mathematical thinking!

If you liked this post about Math Night, you might also like Math Night from 2012 and 2013…

2012

I hope these posts inspire you to make your math night fun!

## How Can You Fit Estimation in All the Time?

Before the walls are completely cleaned off for the end of school, I snapped a few pictures of the things I hung up around school to help students estimate and measure all the time. Maybe these will give you some ideas that you can incorporate in your school or classroom.

I placed a scale near the restrooms so that students could weigh themselves in kilograms. Students needed extra experience weighing themselves with kilograms since that unit isn’t common for us in the U.S. Most digital scales you can buy now have a switch on the back that will convert weight to pounds or kilograms. Just check the box before you buy one.

I also had multiple rulers and yardsticks hot glued to the wall so that students could estimate the length of walls as they stood in line waiting. Here is one of the walls that I had a yardstick glued to. Unfortunately I waited till the end of the year to snap a picture and the sign is a bit tattered , but you get the idea.

## Has the Weather Put a Damper on Recess? Measure Instead…

One day the students had been inside for days, and not been allowed to play outside because it was so cold. Wanting the students to enjoy the slight snowfall we had just had, I called the office to let them know we were going outside to do some measurements. This was my way of giving the kids a little outdoor time! We measured the depth of the snow with rulers in both inches and centimeters.

We even calculated the temperature to see how cold it was…

Why can’t you take a little time out for fun and math with the weather?

## Need a Fun Way to Introduce Area?

Kids love this! Find the area of the desktop in square units…or in this case in square sticky notes! Give students a sticky note pad and let them stick the notes all over the desk, leaving no spaces and without overlaps. Then have students count the number of sticky notes that it took to cover the desk. If there are some sticky notes hanging off, then you will be able to talk about the halves–or in the picture below thirds. Wow! A fraction lesson in the midst of an area lesson. Then students will be able to talk about how the halves fit together to make wholes or that 3 thirds makes a whole. Have students calculate the number of wholes plus their fractional amounts hanging off to find the total. This works as a lovely discussion of square units since the pieces that are counted are actually squares. One sticky note pad (of 100 sheets) will be enough to cover a large desk like the one shown below. If students have a smaller desk where the books slide in underneath the top, then half of a sticky note pad will be enough to cover one. If you prefer an alternate activity, try finding the area of a book with Cheeze-its, or Starburst candy squares–these unit squares don’t work well to discuss fractional pieces though.

## Seize This Easy Opportunity for Students to Measure

I’m always trying to find ways to help kids learn math by osmosis :). I try to hang vocabulary words and other mathematical items in the hallway near the bathrooms to help kids learn while they are waiting in line. I even asked my principal a few years ago if I could hang a multiplication fact on the back of each bathroom stall door. I thought they could learn a fact while they were sitting there on the, you know, toilet :). My principal unfortunately didn’t like the idea. She thought the kids would write on them. This is one of those times when I wished I would have asked for forgiveness rather than permission! Now onto the easy measurement experience for kids.

The fun measurement activity started with my mom. (I must take a moment and tell how thoughtful my mom is! I love her! :)) I really appreciate how my mom supports my teaching and blogging efforts. She is always sending me items to use for school. This time she sent me this growth chart she had gotten from somewhere. I laminated and hung it up near the restrooms so that students could measure themselves in inches. After it had been hung up a while, I realized that many of the students in the 2nd-4th grade hallway were too tall for the chart so later on I hung up a measuring tape beside it which goes to 60 inches. The teachers in the hallway are always telling me that kids love to measure themselves. Many of them measure themselves from week to week to see if they have grown from one week to the next. I hung a sign above the measuring chart that asks students how tall they would be in feet and inches. Later on, I added the arrows that show how many feet every 12 inches are worth. That way a student will at least be a good estimator to five feet or 60 inches. Below are pictured the measuring tape and the sign that are hung outside the bathroom. I know you may be thinking that kids will waste time instead of coming back to class…but on the contrary the students that are measuring themselves are actually having a meaningful hands-on learning experience even if it does take an extra minute.