Paper Sailboats- STEM Challenge

Saturday, May 23, 2015 No comments
I am as tired at the end of the school year as I am at the beginning of the school year! It is hard to find things for students to do that are fun and engaging while allowing students the opportunity to apply skills they have learned this year.

This week, I went with my daughter on her senior trip, so I was gone for two days. Then I had a school wide team leader day, so I was gone for another day.  My students had their fill with quiet sub work, so I knew I needed to provide an outlet for their energy!

Yesterday we built paper sailboats which sailed down the hall using a fan.  Here is the handout that I provided each student with: Paper Sailboat Challenge How far will your sailboat travel using 5 jumbo paper clips as cargo?

I instructed students to pick their groups of three.  As a whole class we went over the objective and the materials that they can use.  I supplied a variety of different paper types and two types of supports (straws and craft sticks).  Students were only limited on their supply of tape.

Step 1: Students brainstormed and drew their sailboat on paper.  During this process students would determine what supplies are needed.
Once they figured out supplies, one student from each group came up to the U table and picked up the supplies.

Step 2: Students built and tested the sailboat.
I left the fan going out in the hall.  Students would go out test their boat and then come back into the room and make adjustments.
I loved hearing how they were going to fix problems that were taking place.  Examples of issues were falling over, spinning around, or sails being too light to catch the wind.
I gave students 60 min to complete the drawing and building phase.

Step 3: Final Test- Students went out to the hall and conducted 3 trials.  After each trail the students measured the distance.  The group went back into the room and found the average distance that their boat traveled.  Students listed their groups average on the board so that other groups could record the data.

All of the boats were so different and many made improvements on their first boats.

This boat kept spinning so the students put sails going the opposite way so that when the boat spun around the other sails would keep the boat moving.  What an amazing idea! 

On Tuesday we will use the data to order measurements and create a scatterplot graph.  

I would love to hear if you complete this challenge in your class! Please post any comments or pictures! 
Have a wonderful LONG weekend :)
Peace, Love, Math- Jenn

The Great Chain Race- A STEM Challenge

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 3 comments
Today in math, we incorporated one of my favorite things to do, a STEM Challenge.  Students love STEM challenges! I love to watch them, collaborate and discuss how to efficiently construct, while trying to win a challenge.

The objective of today's challenge was to create the longest paper chain using 1 sheet of 12 x 18 construction paper.  I allowed students to pick their group.  At the first of the year, kids always pick their friends.  As we have been doing this throughout the year, the students no longer gravitate towards their friends, rather they pick kids they know they will be a resource to their group.

After they pick their groups of 3 (I had a couple groups of 4 because of an odd man out), students were given a handout with the objective of the challenge.  To download your own copy of the handout click here- Great Chain Race Handout

I handed out 1 sheet of paper (each group got a different color), 1 pair of scissors and 1 stick of glue to each group.  I set the timer and students had 60 minutes to build the longest chain.  My blocks are 90 minutes so doing this for an hour allowed us to have 30 minutes left over to go onto part 2 of the handout.  If you have a shorter class, you could always set the timer for less.

Students worked well in groups and every group came up with a plan and jobs for each person.  I am amazed at the different strategies that emerged!

Some students tried little rings, some tried large, skinny rings, some tried many different types of rings in their chain.

After the 60 minutes expired, we went out to the hall and lined all the chains up on the floor.  This comparison determined the winner.

Part 2 of the handout is measuring the chains.  Each group rotated and measured every chain in centimeters.  Students worked together to convert the centimeters into millimeters and meters. 

Tomorrow we will complete part 3 and 4 of the handout.  Part 3 is to create a graph of the data.  I have asked the students to construct a stem and leaf plot of the data, since this is a new graph for our 5th graders.  
After they have graphed the data, part 4 is to analyze the data.  Students will find Range, Median, Mean and Mode of their classroom data.  

I love STEM and I love how our kids thrive in this type of environment.  I can't wait to do more STEM challenges! 

Let me know if you try this is your classroom! I would love to hear how it went! 
Peace, Love, Math- Jennifer 

How Much Water Can A Penny Hold?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 No comments
Update 5-2-17! I have made a completely digital STEM challenge from this blog post! Check it out! 

Today we incorporated a little science into our math lesson.  We have been investigating data and then using the data to calculate statistics such as range, median, mode and mean.  Today we focused on using the data to find each one of these terms.  Later we will explore the appropriate times to use median, mode, and mean.  I know it is getting close to summer vacation so I try to make the lessons even more engaging in order to keep their attention.  I am happy to say, the students were engaged and completed the investigation wonderfully! It is always good when a plan comes together.

I gave every group a handout, cup of water, a pipet or water dropper, paper towel and a penny.
If you would like to get your hands on a digital version of this activity click HERE! 

We first predicted how many drops a penny could hold.  To my surprise, they all said amounts under 5 drops.  (I thought for sure one of the students had done this in previous years and would tell the others that a penny can hold a lot more than 1 or 2 drops)

After we predicted, we talked about the importance of going slow, when dropping water onto the penny.  We talked about the difference between a drop and a squirt, to prevent any foul play :)

As groups finished, they recorded their data on the white board so that other groups could also see and record the information on the handout.  

The next part of the activity involved making a stem and leaf plot as well as a line plot.  This was a good informal assessment for me, since it showed me if they remembered how to make each of these graphs.  

Afterwards, students worked in groups on the remaining questions in the handout.  They discovered range, median, mode, mean and outliers.  In the first class our outlier was 7 and in the second class our outlier was 42.  The third class's outlier was a little more difficult to identify and the reasoning behind what the students came up with was thought provoking and showed their critical thinking skills.

I would love to hear your ideas on how to teach statistics and outliers! Let me know if you use this lesson in your class and how it turns out!

Peace, Love, Math- Jenn

Prime Factorization Mobiles and Digital Versions using Lucid Chart

Saturday, May 2, 2015 2 comments
Good Morning!

This past week has been such a busy week! Last Saturday I was helping revise the current 5th grade Math Curriculum and as we were vertically aligning, I noticed that 6th grade will be using Prime Factorization to incorporate the use of exponents.  Prime Factorization used to be a part of the 5th grade TEKS, however, it is not anymore.  I love prime factorization because it allows students to discover that all composite numbers are made up of a series of prime numbers.  So this week I decided that we would focus on Prime Factorization.

First we journaled and talked about the difference between prime and composite (they have all slept since we last talked about this).  Students quickly remembered that breaking down composite numbers into their prime factors, was just like an ipad game they have played called Prime Smash.

I absolutely love Prime Smash! It is a free game, and when we were learning about Prime and Composite, the students would play this in stations or as an extension.  The goal of the game is to smash the prime numbers and slash the composites.  When you slash the composites, the factors appear, then they either smash or slash the factors.  Here is where you can find the game: Prime Smash App

Next we made Prime Factorization Mobiles: Students were encouraged to come up with their own two digit or three digit number.  One by one the students told me the number they were going to tackle in this project.  I had told them ahead of time, no repeats, so if someone else picked their number, they needed to pick a new one.  Then they needed to find the prime factorization of their number and create a mobile of their factor tree.

I put the directions on the board: **note I added- Put the prime factorization of your number on the back of the hanger, after I took this picture.**

I wanted the primes to be different shapes then the composites.  The kids had a blast with this project.  It allowed them to be creative and challenge themselves.

For the next couple of days students worked on a Prime Factorization Tutorial Poster using Lucid Chart for Education.

Lucid Chart for Education is a chromebook app, that allows students to make flow charts, thinking maps etc.  You can use the free version, but you can also apply for a free student account.

Here is the project guidelines for their Lucid Chart:

The students were engaged and worked diligently on this project.  I am always so impressed on how much students love to type and create on their chromebooks!
Here are a few examples: ** Sorry the pictures are so small, the actual product is a lot bigger and saved to a pdf file, these are just screenshots.**

Lucid Chart for Education is a valuable tool for our grade level.  Teachers use it in Reading for story maps and pre-writing activities.  The science teacher has even used it to create food webs.  Lucid Chart for Education is user friendly and best of all it is free! It also comes pre-loaded with useful templates and ready to use diagrams for lower grades.  Visit Lucid Chart at

Have a wonderful weekend.  I would love to hear ideas you may have on Prime Factorization or other projects that you have done on Lucid Chart! 

Peace, Love, Math- Jennifer