Task: Math is Everywhere… in Logan

Planning Task

I adapted this task based on pages 120-121 in Van de Walle.1
Math is everywhere. People use it all the time in the world and at work and at home. Part of math is just being curious and asking questions and looking for patterns that help you make sense of the world. Yesterday, while you were at school, I took some pictures of different places where I think people do math.

  1. Which of these do you recognize?
    1. Willow Park Playground
    2. Willow Park Wildlife Center
    3. Logan Aquatic Center
    4. Logan Library – Books
    5. Logan Library – Programs
  2. Which have you visited?
  3. Can you think of any other places where you do math that isn’t your house and isn’t school?
  4. What are some other places where you think you might do math?

Decide as a group: Which picture / place do you want to use for math today?

  • What math could you do here – I mean, what math questions could you ask?
  • I asked myself some math questions and chose one. Before you try to answer it, I want you to Analyze the question and Make Sense of it, so I’m going to ask you some questions.
    • What does analyze mean?
    • What is happening in the question?
    • What will the answer tell us?
    • Why is it interesting to know? Or who could the answer help?
    • Do you think the answer will be a big number or a small number?
    • Can you estimate the answer?


Willow Park Playground:

When you plan a playground, what do you have to think about?
wp_20160922_14_55_00_proThe Sway Fun glider costs $34,628 and a Swingset costs $3,298. Which costs more? How much more? What does that tell the planning group?

Willow Park Wildlife Center

The Wildlife Learning Center needs to know how many kids will go to Story Time each month.
wp_20160922_15_01_02_pro-2In 2008, there were 943 kids that visited Story Time the whole year. In 2013, there were 497 kids that visited. Which year did more kids visit? How many more? What does that tell the Center?

Logan Aquatic Center

The Aquatic Center needs to know if it’s using too much water.

wp_20160922_15_10_17_proThere’s a park in Draper, Utah called Cowabunga Bay that uses 250,000 gallons. Logan Aquatic Center uses 800,000 gallons. Seven Peak Water Park uses 34,746,096 gallons2 . Which uses the most? How much more? What does that tell the Aquatic Center?

Logan Library – Books

The Logan Library tries to get more books every year so more children can use them.

wp_20160922_15_24_24_pro In 2011, kids checked out 633,330 children’s books. In 2015, kids checked out 434,815 children’s books. Which year did kids check out more books? How many more? What does that tell the library?

Logan Library – Programs

The Logan Library has children’s programs and want more kids to use them. wp_20160922_15_24_08_proIn 2011, there were 2015 kids that came to programs. And in 2015, there were 11,171. Which year did more kids come? How many more? What does that tell the library?

Reflection on Task and Implementation

My first goal was to follow the “Problem Analysis” from Van de Walle on pp. 120-121. The idea is to support students in making sense of the problem and the answer – so not really very different than what you showed them which was awesome! So I wanted to go through:
  • What is happening in the question?
  • What will the answer tell us?
  • Why is it interesting to know? Or who could the answer help?
  • Do you think the answer will be a big number or a small number?
  • Can you estimate the answer?
My second goal (that I hoped would support the first!) was to support the “asking math questions” idea by bringing in the pictures from around Logan – mostly Willow Park and Logan Library. I had others but I talked myself down from preparing for so many problems and thought so many pictures would really be distracting. Part of the goal here is to support students use of their “funds of knowledge” which includes what they know from school and what they know from home and the other things that they do because research has shown that students compartmentalize and so don’t bring in their problem-solving skills, sense-making, or intuition, etc. that they might use outside of school.
This is what really happened…
The reality – I thought I could have kept them on track and moved faster, but I was pleased to here all of their ideas and enthusiasm.  What I actually did was:
  1. Math is everywhere. The goal today is to think about math outside of the class and outside of your homework. Part of math is just being curious and asking math questions about things you notice or wonder about. Where are some place you think you could ask math questions?
    1. I made sure each person told me at least one, although some repeated. Here are some of their responses: stores, library, video games, gummy bear factory (!?!), cookie factory, gas station, the world (how many people are there? how many gallons of water are in the ocean?), Fredrico’s Pizza, Tony’s Pizzeria, Macey’s, Tony’s Grove, LegoLand (how many Legos are in a big creation?), Wal-Mart, Bear Lake, Salt Lake, a road trip, Oregon.
  2. Yesterday, while you were at school, I tried to guess where you fourth-graders might ask math questions when you aren’t in school. So I took pictures that I’m going to show you and I wonder if you have ever seen these places or been to them? (I passed out the pictures and they had no problem recognizing each – and pointed out that they had a field trip last year at the Wildlife Learning Center by Willow Park Zoo.  I think everyone had been to every place, except I think Isaac said he’s from Smithfield so doesn’t go the Logan Library.
  3. As a group, choose which place we will ask our math questions about today. (They were reasonably quick to do this – every group wanted to talk about the Aquatic Center and the Logan Library – but only in only one group did Library win. I told them we would do the library if we had time.)
  4. What are some math questions that you wonder about?
    1. Logan Aquatic Center: How many people go there? (on Wednesday, in a week, in the summer, in the winter, between 2:30 and 3:30); How many people go on Wednesday compared to Friday? or go there vs. stay home? How many workers are there? How many lifeguards? How many lifeguards are there each week? How many people have been hurt on the slides? How many people have broken a leg on the slides? How many people have swallowed a gallon of water? How long is a slide? How long is a curly slide compared to a straight slide? How deep is the deepest pool? How tall is the tallest slide? How much water is in one pool? How many gallons are in a pool? How much does visiting cost? How much would lunch cost?
    2. Logan Library: What is the number of books there? How many at each grade level? How many magazines are there? How many words on a page of a book? How many videos on a YouTube page? (or a YouTube search?) What street is it on? How many people are there?
  5. Estimation: 
    1. Logan Aquatic Center: The question I chose to ask was: How many gallons of water are in all of the pools and slides? So, I found out how many gallons. What do you think the answer is? (I passed out markers and erasers here, and had them write down what they thought. That was interesting – I should have been prepared to write those answers down, but I didn’t. The answer according to the LAC website is 800,000 gallons. Maybe 4 students guessed at the magnitude – 123,000 or 250,000.  Several students guessed a two-digit number: 32, or between 20-30 gallons.  Most students assumed it was a huge number and so wrote something like 999,999,999,999,999,999 or 2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000… They all seemed surprised by 800,000.)
    2. Logan Library: The question I chose to ask was: How many children’s books are checked out in a year? So, I found out how many books. What do you think the answer is? (Two students wrote numbers in the hundred thousand range – these really varied. The answer was 434,815 books in 2015. Time was up or I would have compared the books in 2011).
  6. Subtraction question: 
    1. Logan Aquatic Center: I wanted to know how Logan Aquatic Center compared to other water parks. So I found two others: Cowabunga Bay (in Draper) and Seven Peaks (in Provo). Have any of you gone to those? (Some had – if they had, I made them guess if they thought it had more water or less than LAC.)  Cowabunga Bay uses 250,000 gallons and Seven Peaks uses 34,746,096 gallons2 . Write those numbers down. (Okay – that was my fault! Most struggled to write the 34 million down – but a few were okay. I know that’s bigger than they’ve practiced. By the time we had any two numbers down, time was up! That was okay!)
So – we didn’t really analyze any because of the other parts, but I felt like it was still productive even though we never actually subtracted. I really liked that they chose a place – but I think that took more time than made it useful. I think if I did this again, I would just bring one picture or I would have partners choose one and they would work on different problems as partners.

1  Pages 1120-121: Van de Walle, J. A., Karp, K. S., Lovin, L. A. H., & Bay-Williams, J. M. (2014). Teaching Student-centered Mathematics: Developmentally Appropriate Instruction for Grades 3-5 (Vol. 2). Pearson Higher Ed.

2  Note: I later realized that the difference in the amount of water is due to the difference in online resources that I used. For Seven Peaks, I found a document describing water usage in Salt Lake City – the 34 million number is probably per year, not its capacity!


One response to “Task: Math is Everywhere… in Logan

  1. Pingback: Week 3: Reflection | Sense-Making in a Complex Field

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