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.

Use This Simple Idea to Help Students Understand Fractions of an Inch

Because rulers have so many small lines, they are difficult for students to understand and differentiate.  Because of this struggle,  I took a flat ruler and placed it on the copy machine and blew it up until an inch section was about as large as the page like below.

Then I cut off the centimeter section and the marks after the one inch mark.

Because linear measurement is more difficult for students to conceptualize, I relate it to parts of a whole by using this enlarged ruler.  Now that I have trimmed all of the sections off, students can see it as 1 WHOLE rectangular section as opposed to the daunting linear ruler.  I have students fold the ruler section into half along the half inch line.  When we study parts of a whole, we fold colored paper in half.  This make the ruler like parts of a whole instead of a linear model, so the ruler marks are easier for students to understand.

Next, students label the half point on the ruler where the paper folded.

Then students fold the halves into half to make fourths and label the fourths.  After labeling fourths, students begin to see equivalent fractions.

You could fold the fourths an additional time to make eighths also, but elementary students aren’t required to know eighths yet.

An additional fold would make sixteenths, but this is not really needed since all of the marks denote sixteenths.  Now you and your students can pull this ruler out anytime you need to refer to the fractional measurements.  The only thing to beware of is that students recognize this  fractional pattern repeats for every inch.  You will have to repeat the pattern for each number for students to recognize this.  Another error that can occur is that students leave the whole number off of their measurement and only think that the fractional marks stand for fractions alone.  Measuring to fractional inches greater than 1 and writing fractions greater than 1 need  to be modeled.  I hope this tidbit helps you and your students!

Edited 1/25/14:  I just found this great free ruler picture that would be great to use for the above activity.  You can see it  here.