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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Math: What's the Big Idea?

Play dough lends itself to math exploration.
Soon we'll start the fraction unit, and I feel like we need to bridge that unit with the year-to-date's learning by discussing the big ideas of math.

First, why do we learn math? What's important? We'll talk about how math helps us to think, communicate, and solve problems, and that's why it's important. I'll ask students why they think math helps us to think well, communicate, and solve problems. We'll list student ideas, and in the end, I'll state that math is good for the brain as learning math makes our brains flexible and capable in so many ways. Math is essentially exercise for the brain.

Next, we'll talk about the math we've learned so far this year. We initially learned about the number system including its history, the parts, and how it works. This study helped us to learn how to read numbers, know their values, estimate and round. In a sense, this learning, helped us to learn the language or "letters and words" of math similar to the ways you learned the alphabet in order to read.

Next we studied the operations, and how to multiply, add, subtract, and divide large and small whole numbers and decimal numbers. We also learned to apply our number knowledge to real-life problems that we might encounter.

Further, we looked at ways to use graphs, charts, and models to illustrate number relationships and connections. We plotted points on graphs, created and analyzed patterns, and demonstrated the ways numbers work with both 2D and 3D models.

Now we're going to move from whole numbers deeper into the study of parts of numbers. We already started this with our study of decimals as we looked at ways to write numbers using decimals that equal less than one. Now we're going to study another way of looking at number parts and that's named fractions. The root frac comes from the ancient language, Latin, and means "break; broken." Words such as fractious, fracture, fragile, fragment, frail, infraction, and refraction come from this root.  What other words can you think of that begin with frac?

To begin this study we're going to play with play dough a bit.

Take your play dough ball and roll it into a strip as long as your desk. We are going to consider this one whole and we're going to work to break this whole into many equal parts. As we break the whole, we're going to discuss the parts including their names, what they look like, and how they relate to other parts.

After that we'll take our play dough and create 24 little balls. We'll consider that a whole group. We'll split that whole group into many different sets of equal parts too and discuss those equal parts.

In the end, we'll discuss how a whole can be any one set or item. We will think about "wholes" we live, work, and play with daily and how those wholes are broken in to parts such as a whole year, a whole day, a whole yard, and more.

Later during the introduction period, we'll look at a whole dollar and consider the relationship between fractions and decimals (and percents).

Then we'll start making lots of fraction models, and discuss how to "operate" on fractions using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. We'll apply that learning to lots of real world problems and investigations too.

In the meantime, during RTI and for home study, we'll keep our whole number and decimal computation fresh too.. There's a lot to learn about math as we exercise our brains to become terrific communicators, problem solvers, and thinkers, and hopefully we'll have lots of fun as we complete these exercises too.