Slice of (Math) Life

Way back in September, I had read about this neat activity from Marilyn Burns called “The Door Project“and had decided to use it to start my school year.  On day one I always like to take the students for a walk around the building.  If anyone is new, or even if they are just coming to my end of the school for the first time, I want to make sure they have a chance to orient themselves, find the washroom and drinking fountain – that sort of thing. On the first day of school, I combined that with some math.  It was our first provocation, if you will.

When we got back to class, I asked, “Did you notice how many different types of doors we have in our school?”  We took a look around the class, and started thinking of ways to sort the doors in our school. Some have windows, some don’t. Some are metal, and some are wood.  Some go to the outside, and some into closets.  I gave everyone paper, asked them to think of 2 or 3 categories to compare, and away we went.  (I’ve condensed it here – we actually spent a whole class period on this!)

It was a disaster. I just looked back to link you to my post, and found I didn’t write about it at all!  That’s how bad it was.  As I recall, we were having a lot of trouble managing our data.  The categories were all mixed up, the tallies were not organized, and nobody could do anything with the information we collected. I had intended to graph our data, but, alas, it was not meant to be.

Today we tried again.

I reminded everyone about this activity, and some sort of remembered it.  We quickly reviewed our door types.  I gave everyone a choice of paper – plain, lined, or graph.  They grabbed clipboards and pencils, and lined up like pros!

We made it all the way around the school, gathering all of our data, in very little time.  Nobody had to shut their door when we stopped to count!  When we got back to class, everyone was able to count their tally marks by 5’s and find their totals in record time!

I reminded them how far we had come.  I reminded them that in September this activity had been really hard, but now it was barely a challenge.  Everyone collected the information independently, found their totals, and is now ready (and able!) to graph it tomorrow.  Now I am sorry I didn’t keep our first disastrous attempt so they could see how far they’ve come! (Who am I kidding…I probably do have it and will find it on the last day of school when I am finishing my clean up!)

What a difference a year makes!