Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How Many Buses?

Research tells us that authentic math situations that children care about are highly engaging and robust learning opportunities. My quest in FDK has been to embed mathematically meaningful experiences into our program each day. Today I presented the children with a problem and asked for their help.
On Monday we have an upcoming field trip. (After letting the office know my plan) I told the children that the office had requested that we calculate how many buses would be needed to bring all the kindergarten children, staff and volunteers to our destination. Too few buses and we wouldn't all make it there; too many buses and we would waste money that could be used for other trips.
The children were immediately engaged. They knew that the problem was important because the office had asked us to figure this out. I asked them what we needed to know in order to proceed.
They knew we needed to first calculate how many people altogether would need to ride the bus from our classroom. I used a ten frame to help represent this number because it made it easy to visualize just how many people there were and also because I wanted to provide entry points for all children. If I used just a numeral it might be too big for some to understand. I also wanted to create a situation where the children could manipulate the 'people' and fit them onto buses later on in the activity. Unifix cubes that the children could manually manipulate might have worked just as well, if not better (food for thought for next time).


Next we totaled how many people would be coming on the trip from the other two kindergarten classes including staff and volunteers. I used ten frames again to represent this number.

The children knew this was a big number and guessed we would need two or three buses. I reminded them that if we booked too many buses it would waste money. I asked them what they needed to know in order to find out. One child suggested that we needed to know how many seats were on a bus so we could figure out how many children could fit on the bus.

The children were motivated and excited by this work. I could tell by their concentration and enthusiasm that this problem really mattered to them. I asked them where we might find out the answer to our question. A few thought it would be a good idea to ask the bus driver on their way home tonight. In order to stress the urgency of the math problem I shared that we needed to order the buses today and that would be too late. I suggested we ask the office.
We took our data to Mrs. Tessier and showed her our calculations. She agreed that it appeared we had a correct total of people that needed to take the bus. She also answered our question and shared that 48 people can fit on one bus.
The children were thrilled! They knew that one bus wouldn't be enough because "there were already 60 kids in one class and they wouldn't all fit". They shouted that we needed two buses! I reminded them that we needed to be sure so that we didn't waste money ordering an unnecessary bus.

We returned to the classroom. I asked the children to pretend that one yellow piece of paper represented a bus and asked them what to do. The children suggested counting the dots on the ten frame to try and fit them onto the 'bus'. I suggested that to make it easy, we could cut the ten frames apart. We quickly filled one bus with 40 'people'.

The children then suggested adding a second bus to hold another 40 people.

We knew it would be close...the children then suggested cutting apart the remaining ten frames into single units and dividing these equally into the two buses.

We finally had a solution! Each bus would hold 47 people, and that meant that we needed two buses to bring everyone on our field trip!

We reported back to Mrs. Tessier to share our thinking and show her our work. She was so excited that the children had calculated this on their own and promised to order precisely two buses!

I was amazed at the end of this activity. The children were so confident problem solving with such a large number! I know that it was because they were highly motivated and invested in the math problem because it related directly to their lives and was something that was exciting and important. I look forward to finding more authentic math problems to bring to our whole group conversations.

If you have examples of real life math that has intrigued your children please tweet us and share @McLennan1977 or comment below!

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