Posted by: jwhiff | September 30, 2017

Mystery Numbers!

Mystery numbers + hypothesis + investigation = Aha!

It was a fun exercise.  My kids were completely engaged by this.

Step 1:  You need to find some numbers that tell a story without revealing what the title to the story is.  You need to provide some clues that kids can use to figure the title out!  This week, I choose numbers related to Terry Fox.

Step 2: Give them to your students in random order.  Because I have a range of needs in my class, I pre-cut mine and put them into ziplock bags.

Step 3: Students place them into some sort of meaningful order.  This week, I asked them to place them from least to greatest.

Step 4: Make sure students understand these numbers.  This step involves saying them, expanding them and building them out of base 10 blocks.

Step 5: Start providing some clues.  This week, I gave students units ($, km, days, years) that match the numbers (also pre-cut and random).  The students used these to make hypotheses about what the number story could be.  Most were very certain the number were about Terry Fox because of our run this week.  I imagine making a game out of this step in the future.

Step 6: Pair the units with numbers.  This is another guessing step.  I ask the kids not to glue them down, because they need to follow up with some research before they can be sure.

Step 7: Research and glue down.  This is big Aha! session.  The kids loved figuring out whether or not their number/unit combos were right. We used our school laptops and a single website for this part:

Step 8: Fill in the details of the story. This involves reading and writing.  This was the hardest step for some of my students, although important enough that they stayed on it.  In this step, they already knew (for example) that 5,373 was paired with km, but now they needed to figure out that Terry had run 5,373 km when his cancer came back and he needed to stop.

In the end, it was an engaging, inclusive activity.  I think it is very important for numbers to be studied in meaningful contexts.  Numbers make stories amazing, and stories make numbers meaningful.

Here is an idea that I have coming up: Arctic explorer timeline mystery numbers:

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