Project based math

Fifth Graders Sweet Statistical Computation Collaboration

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We are looking for other classes to participate in our investigation if the claims made by a company are truthful. According to students at a recent College of Natural Science exhibit at the University of Texas in Austin, the makers of M&M’s state a bag contains the following: 14% are yellow, 20% are orange, 24% are blue, 13% are red, 16% are green and 13% are brown. We would like to investigate whether these claims are correct. Please fill out our form and we will provide the results in December on our site with a histogram.

We are experimenting on posting our form on Edmodo too.

I would like to give credit to the teacher at I have adapted this site and have based our project on the UT project with permission from the students and would like to give full credit to both places. We are using a 19.2 oz bag of plain M&M’s for our investigation.


Smith 5th grade searches for mystery classroom

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This month we tried Mystery Classroom. Our partner class was so excited to also participate, they were joined by their principal to watch the process. Watch the video to find out the state we Skyped!

There were several things that I learned from this project. Assign certain groups to become experts on different sections (mountains and oceans, state flags, longitude and latitude, etc.). Use a dry erase board for students to record their questions in advance. The other class thought of this idea and it really saved time, especially when the child’s voice was not loud.

This project is student centered and I preferred some questions to be corrected during our Skype break. And although they were confused about their answer about our longitude (it is 95 degrees west), I noticed that they were actually trying to figure out how to find the longitude using their fingers along the marked guidelines instead of guessing with no strategy. During the second Mystery Skype class call they had it correct.

Decide in advance where you want your students to sit and how you would like them to ask their questions. We tried placing 2 students in 2 seats, but it took too long and was faster if students knew to come up in groups.

Most importantly, print a map of the United States for students to write on. It really helps students eliminate states.

…the state got cut off at the end….it was Indiana!

Fibonacci is worth the confusion and inspires inquisitve students

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For the last 2 years I have focused only on math in the fifth grade classroom, and although I loved my school math program and all of the tools available to me, I missed bringing in literature into many of my lessons. Teaching in a self-contained room this year will allow me this opporutunity.

Check out the ALA notable book, Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell. Learning about Fibonacci numbers gives students confidence with the “play” of numbers. Perhaps the theory is a bit confusing because Fibonacci occurs throughout nature but there are some exceptions to the rules. Some of these exceptions cannot be explained. And of course there is always the question: What is the point of learning about Fibonacci numbers and how will it help me later in life?

My fifth graders have problems recognizing patterns and when we arrive at algebraic expressions, many students are completely lost. They have had many experiences before they have arrived in fifth grade, and I believe that some of my students just lack a bit of confidence.

After learning about the Fibonacci sequence, I would allow my small cooperative groups to generate new Fibonacci numbers using paper and pencil and then try it with their iPads. Use the iPad app Fibonacci Sequence Generator to allow students to check their work and explore bigger numbers.

In a computer literacy center, allow students to use the Fibonacci Series Thinkquest Students can use the Thinkquest to draw and create their own Fibonacci spirals. Think of the experience that get from using their rulers.

Students may also use the Fibonacci iPad app at This also allows a hands-on expereince to create the spiral.

Make this into a science writing project. My intention this year to encourage students to complete one science blog experiment every 9 weeks with pictures and videos. At, there is an guide for students to create an experiment at I would place a selection of nature materials in this center and allow students to work at their own pace.

Worldwide project to become climate experts

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This past year I found our fifth grade students struggling with the concept of the difference between climate and weather. Try the Mystery Class Project. The planning for the 2013 is already underway with a search for classes outside North America.

Classrooms use longitude, latitude, sunrise and sunset times and clues from other classrooms to search for the Mystery Classroom. This project is supported by Journey North. Journey North is another outstanding site that allows students to follow Northern Migration.

This project looks like an excellent way for students to use their reasoning skills to track data and increase their math abilities in the classroom.

The book Math for all Seasons by Greg Tang might be a great way for students to start on the weather and climate science curriculum. The book is great for increasing math skills by grouping, and contains the much needed poetry for our students. Perhaps you can read one or two of the riddles and allow students to solve the riddles. Place the book in a literacy center and have students create their own math riddles using poetry.

Project based math with Amelia Earhart search

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Read ALA notable book Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh. Read this book to introduce biographies in your classroom.

It has been 75 years since Earhart disappeared on her trip around the world. Create a computer literacy center to track one of the two current groups looking for her long lost plane at the TIGHAR site (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) at TIGHAR’s Niku VII expedition. Students can read about what the engineers and historians experienced each week and journal interesting observations.

Provide the link on the site for her travels at and allow students to research one of her destinations on her map. Or give the map to your students without the miles, and allow them to use Google Earth to find the miles traveled.

Allow students to find the site where TIGHAR is searching using Google Earth and determine how far away the site is located from their school. As the expedition starts searching along the coast, allow your students to find the area of their search using the provided GPS coordinates.

After students are familiar with her story of disappearing over the Atlantic, allow your students to read the fascinating last radio signals at This could create an outstanding writing assignment for students to imagine that they are Earhart and what Earhart is experiencing during these last minutes.

The iPad at “World Book: This Day in History” would be great for a literacy center allowing students to find out what other newsworthy events occurred around the date of her disappearance and answer the prompt in their journals: Discuss how the Earhart event or other newsworthy events during this time period might have affected the country.

Finally, although I did not find a specific person on the expedition to follow on Twitter, TIGHAR provides a fascinating Facebook page. Some of the items on the page may be found on their website, and perhaps most video, blog and picture entries will eventually be stored on the website too. The Facebook page is by far the most interesting of the two presentations and a much more clearly presented example of their quest. For older students, or for a student that you could sit down next to you for a center, check out the social iPad app TreasureNet. It is not monitored for children.