Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sneaky Variables

Today I introduced one of my favorite math concepts to my third graders: variables!  I always tell my kiddos that variables are letters trying to sneak their way into math class.  We joke that letters belong in reading, language, and writing, and they are trying to sneak their way into math class!  They love pretending that letter variables have "numbernapped" (instead of kidnapped) the numbers in our math equations.

The third grade common core math curriculum is about 75 percent multiplication and division, so this year I introduced variables in multiplication and division word problems. I sometimes dress up as a detective and we use magnifying glasses as we search for the missing number that was "numbernapped".  They LOVE this!  If you play spooky, mysterious music while they work to solve for the variables, they get even more into the process :)

For their independent work, I used a mini-dicut machine to cut out a few letters.  I gave each table a container of letters and asked them to pick the letter of their choice.  After choosing a letter, the students were asked to construct a multiplication or division word problem and use the variable to represent the unknown.  While working with variables, we talked about choosing a variable that represented the first letter of the unknown: g for groups or h for hotdogs.  My students really liked the opportunity to choose their letter and create word problems with matching illustrations.  I showed them my example (modeling, modeling, and more modeling) and then they were ready to roll.  I'll post their finished products tomorrow!

Tomorrow, after the kiddos finish their creations, they will work together in pairs to complete a matching variables activity.  I also made an around the room activity where students will use clipboards to walk around the room and solve.  They can do this individually or in pairs.  You can find those activities in my TPT store.

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