Dateline: Friday 6th June 2008
Do you see this?
Do you SEE this?
This is the end result of my year 10 Maths lesson on fractions.
This is what happens when you ask Year 10 to cut 60cm lengths of streamer, create fractions of 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/3, 1/6, 1/12, sort them into graduated lengths and stick them onto A3 paper. One out of 10 managed it and she had only cut the even denominatored fractions!!
I cannot do justice to the chaos which ensued. They lost bits, they randomly chopped bits, they wrote one sixth as 6, they argued, they told me it was a pointless exercise and that they weren't going to use it 'in life'. They dropped bits on the floor. They 'waited for me to help' (aka doing nothing and then letting Mrs A do it all for you).
Part of the problem was the curly nature of streamers or perhaps I am just clutching at straws...or streamers. Part of the problem was that they cannot follow instructions! Even when they are written down on a paper in front of them! Part of the problem was I did not show them 'one I'd completed earlier' first so they didn't have a visual on what they were trying to accomplish. Most of the problem is that they are hugely disorganised, dysfunctional and do not understand fractions.
Me: Watching now, this is the part where I am HELPING you (for those who will protest in 10
minutes that they couldn't do it because I never help them) . First I need to find out what a
third of 60cm is. How can I do that? Anyone? What operation do I use? Anyone? No? OK,
it's division so who can divide 60cm by 3?
Pupil 1: Why?
Me: So we can find one third. So, 60 divided by 3....anyone?
Pupil 2: 100?
Pupil 3: What are we doing?
Me: We are trying to divide 60 by 3 and no it is not 100.
Pupil 1: Why?
Me: So we can find a third.
Pupil 2: Which streamer are we cutting? (holds up a half)
Me; No, not that one, that is your half. Have you labelled it with 1/2?
Pupil 2: No.
Me: Well do it now. Now, where were we? Oh yes, what is 60 divided by 3?
No-one? Well what is 6 divided by 3?
Pupil 4: 3! Because 3 and 3 is 6.
Me: (giving up) OK well, 6 divided by 3 is 2 so 60 divided by three is 20. So get out your ruler and mark off 20cm. That will be 1/3 of the streamer.
Pupil 1: I don't have a ruler.
Pupil 2: Neither do I.
Pupil 3 : Neither do I...
Need I go on?
Anyway, this tangled mass of lunatics streamers are what was left after the lesson.
Footnote: It is now nearly a week later. I re-did the lesson with stiff cardboard 'streamers'; split up all the kids so that they were working individually; handed out rulers and scissors beforehand; TOLD them what to do step by step (no discovery learning here thanks) and we got most of the fraction construction done. Yesterday I tried to move on to the next stage where they sorted, order and compared the fractions. Once more it was an unmitigtaed disaster. I will not be deterred. Tomorrow we will sort and compare the fractions again and this time it will WORK.
Stay tuned. Oh and for those of you who, with Year 10 say, "what is the point of this activity?", it is to give them hands on experience in proportional thinking. It is also good for practising how to measure 5.6cm using a ruler marked only in mm...or even one marked in cm with no intermediate markings :-(. It is also good for learning how to follow instructions and for getting a sense of having achieved something by finishing it. Eventually I will display their fraction bridges on the wall and then I will take a photo to show you how it all turned out.
Right before having myself committed.