Have you ever wondered what a Grade 4 math unit looks like? Are you curious about how we intertwine the critical concepts in the Investigations workbook with project-based learning so that students build and master measurable skills? The Grade 4 math curriculum covers many lessons, including factors and multiples, generating and representing data, Geometry, decimals, and fractions. Every unit includes at least one project, which allows students to demonstrate mastery of the content in a non-traditional way.
Math is taught differently today than how many of the adults in our community may remember. There is less focus during class time on drilling and practicing new skills, and students are encouraged to be flexible in their mathematical thinking. Although the ways in which parents and students arrive at an answer can differ as we teach new ways of problem solving, the core principals are the same. Park students’ mathematical thinking is stretched in math class under the guidance of their experienced teachers. Teachers intentionally assign homework that students can complete independently and that they know will provide additional practice on essential skills and math facts.
For example, a recent unit in the curriculum covers data. Through carefully chosen problems, Grade 4 students investigate different types of graphs, and are pushed to analyze them with questions that include straightforward challenges (e.g. graph the data, and find the range and mode) and problems that encourage a deeper understanding of the content. In one such problem, for example, students were asked to analyze a line plot to determine what a typical number of houses on a street is, if there is an outlier in the data, and what that could mean. One Grade 4 student hypothesized that the one street with an outlier of only 6 houses, “…might have bigger and more expensive houses than the other streets.” Students’ mathematical thinking and reasoning skills are deepened and stretched as they complete problems from their workbooks.
The Investigations curriculum teaches students how to create a meaningful data question, which needs to be measurable and clearly understood. This leads them to consider how to collect data: what variables may affect the outcome?
The Investigations curriculum teaches students how to create a meaningful data question, which needs to be measurable and clearly understood. This leads them to consider how to collect data: what variables may affect the outcome? How can the extraneous variables be reduced? This fall, students had the opportunity to partner with another grade level to collect data. One class measured how far both Grade 4 and Pre-K students were able to jump, and analyzed who jumped further and by how much. The students then graphed their data and answered questions about what they learned, and whether the results were surprising.
The data unit is supplemented with two enrichment projects and both are designed to show real-life applications of data. In the first project, students were asked to think like the owner of a WNBA team. They analyzed scoring data from two WNBA superstars for a season and created line plots by looking at minimums, maximums, clusters, ranges, and outliers. The students then provided mathematical reasons for why they would pick one player over another. Here is a sample of what students wrote:
Student 1: “I think you should pick A’ja Wilson because she more consistently gets points above 20. Her lowest [scoring game] is 11 while Lloyd’s is 3! And even though her highest [number of points in one game] is lower than Lloyd’s, her cluster is 19 to 24 while Loyd’s is 9 to 14. That’s 10 less! That is why I think you should pick A’ja Wilson.”
Student 2: “I think you should pick Lloyd because if you add [the points for the season] all up, Jewell Lloyd gets 340 points and A’ja Wilson got 320 and the average for Jewell Lloyd is 15.454545. A’ja Wilson’s average is 15.23895, so Jewell Lloyd is better when totaled up.”
The second STEAM enrichment project was completed using the Makerspace. Students dropped weighted stuffed animals using bungees of different lengths to see how far the stuffed animal fell. They used slow-motion cameras on their iPads to determine precisely how low it dropped. The data was graphed and analyzed to see if the information collected matched the students’ initial hypotheses. Rich discussions ensued around what variables may have contributed to the large range of the data that was collected.
Park students leave Grade 4 with a deep understanding of the complexities of data. As they finish their final year in the Lower Division, students are ready to enter the Upper Division with a solid foundation in all Common Core standards and an extensive problem solving toolbox.
By the end of the data unit, the Grade 4 students felt confident collecting data, making the data as accurate as possible by minimizing variables, representing the data using a variety of different graphs, drawing conclusions from the data, and identifying how and why graphs may be misleading. All of these skills are essential for developing critical thinkers. The ability to be able to analyze a graph with a mindful lens of how data can be presented to highlight one point of view is a complex, yet vital skill. For students, a growth mindset paired with confidence in their own ability to struggle through hard topics are essential for future success with mathematics. Park students leave Grade 4 with a deep understanding of the complexities of data. As they finish their final year in the Lower Division, students are ready to enter the Upper Division with a solid foundation in all Common Core standards and an extensive problem solving toolbox.