How long does it take to make a thousand?
Because I won’t be teaching fifth grade math next year, I am trying to get up some old draft posts that I never finished. Here is one about a place value activity I did in the Fall.
Whenever an activity turns out to be more difficult than I expect, I figure that it was that much more of a learning experience. But I am still trying to understand what happened when I asked students to make one thousand using blank hundred grids. Even with groups of four racing to see who would finish first, it took an hour.
The point of the activity is for students to discover that they will need ten hundreds to make a thousand. At the same time they see the counting patterns on a ten by ten grid (which is something we might falsely assume they’ve noticed before).
The activity doesn’t require a lot of upfront instruction. You give the students blank hundreds grids and tape. You present the task and walk around.
One of the biggest challenges is getting the students to talk to eachother. When we did it, students began writing numbers without agreeing who would write what section. Some students didn’t accurately figure out where one person’s numbers would end so that they could start with next number. I had to hustle around the room to point out what people were doing among each group.
Some students also weren’t efficient writers. Many didn’t rely on number patterns such as the repeating digit in the hundreds or tens place to help them write faster. I didn’t want to tell them the patterns, but I sometimes stopped them to ask how some students were moving faster than others.
When they finally taped their hundreds together, it was very exciting. I can’t pinpoint exactly all the learning that happened, but the fact that it presented so many stumbling blocks leads me to believe it was a worthwhile experience. It also allowed us to make ten thousand, which was really exciting to hang in our classroom.