Saturday, May 18, 2013

Made 4 Math: Celebrating Black History Month

 Disclaimer: This post was actually drafted in February, but due to my pesky need to have everything 'just right', I didn't publish it because I couldn't find pics of the activity.  As the year draws to a close, I wanted to share it, because it was really fun and it is something I will continue this summer as I create Math Questions of the Month for the 2013-2014 school year.

 I am so excited to share this week's #Made4Math idea, because it motivated tons of random kids to do math problems for something other than a grade!!!  In fact, students were literally running down the hallways (sorry, Principal Dean:) to check their answers...okay, I promised the "first one with the correct answer" a candy bar, but all of the others were curious just to see if they worked the problems right.  Yay, score one for the Math Department!!!
     So, let me back up...every February our school celebrates Black History Month through a program filled with songs and praise dances. This year, the event organizers asked departments to furnish a Fact of the Day honoring an African-American who made significant contributions in each content area.  The facts were read during the morning announcements. Each department was responsible for only one day of the week and since we were out one week for Winter Break, each department had to furnish only 3 facts for the month.  The math department's day was Thursday.
     As the first Thursday rolled around, I knew I wanted our's to be different, interactive, and contain something about math.  I researched African-American mathematicians and stumbled upon Benjamin Banneker, who, besides studying engineering and astronomy, wrote math riddles in his personal journals.  Very cool and the inspiration for our 'math facts' announcements.  I wrote the announcements introducing Mr. Banneker and then included a math riddle at the end.  Here are a couple that we shared:
Announcement 1:  Benjamin Banneker, American scientist, author and mathematician, was a self taught inventor and engineer. After studying a neighbor's pocket watch, Benjamin Banneker constructed a working wooden clock that kept accurate time for 50 years.  Assuming there a 365 days in a year, how many minutes did Mr. Banneker's clock tick? Be the first to A-5 with the correct answer and win!

Announcement 2: Last week, we introduced Benjamin Banneker, a son of a former slave, who was born on a farm near Baltimore. From books loaned to him by a neighbor, Banneker taught himself surveying, astronomy, and mathematics. Later, he published several almanacs of his own containing astronomical observations.  He also kept a journal.  In his diaries, Banneker wrote mathematical puzzles, one of which we are featuring today.  So here is the math question of the week:  A farmer had $100 to spend on 100 animals.  If bulls cost $5, cows cost $1, and sheep cost a nickel, how many of each type of animal was the farmer able to purchase?  Be the first to A-5 with the correct answer and win!

I created table tents featuring the math riddles for each of the cafeteria tables in case someone missed the details during the morning announcement (I figured the students might as well do math while eating their fish sticks).  Finally, I created a candy bar wrapper which was wrapped around a giant candy bar and given as a prize.
Next year, Math Question of the Month...something to work on this summer:)

       The first person with the correct answer won the Banneker Bar and everyone else received coupons for a free hamburger at the local fast food restaurant near the school.  Truly, kids ran to my classroom to check-in with their answers.  If the answers were incorrect, it provided me with an opportunity to ask them to explain their mathematical thinking and help redirect them to the correct answer.  I loved seeing students that are not in my class this year and watching them get excited about solving problems.  So why should math facts make the announcements only in February?  Why not throw in a challenge question randomly through out the school year?  I promise, it's fun!!! 

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