Thursday, February 27, 2014

Time to Pass It On! Ratio, Proportions, and "Playing" with Dolls {STEM}

One of the things I love most about my district is the amount of consistent and in-depth professional development classes they offer us.  I try to sign up for classes often so I can hone my craft and really figure out ways to better my students' learning in the well as keep myself on my toes. There is just no way I want to be one of those teachers who gets in a rut and that can be easy to do after 9 years of teaching.

Does anyone else have these kind of opportunities in their district?  How often do you take advantage of them?  Do tell!!

This past month, I signed up for a STEM professional development class that our STEM department put together alongside a grant via Arizona State University.  These awesome gals from the department (I've worked closely with several of them multiple times) attended a summer class in which they learned about the lesson I am passing on to you here.  They brought it back to our district and were even able to buy us supplies to take back to our classroom the next day.

Thankfully, I also got one of my first trainings in what STEM truly is.  THE biggest piece I walked away with (besides the super sweet lesson below) was the knowledge of knowing I do not have to use Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in every single STEM lesson.  Phew!  Somehow, this is what I thought it was.  Remember how I said I try to hone my craft and keep on the latest and greatest? Since STEM came along long after I finished up my Bachelors, student teaching, and Masters degree, it is one of those huge elements of present-day education that I just don't know a whole lot about. But...I'm getting there!

Enough of the background...let me share this lesson already!  This was based on the Ratio and Proportion CCSS and it can be used in grades 5-8.  It also ties in measurement and data analysis. Score!!

The idea is to have students use measurement, ratios, proportion, and data analysis to see if they are in proportion to a Barbie or Ken doll.

I was nervous my 5th graders weren't going to feel comfortable enough with ratio.  Despite teaching it and finding the majority of my students meeting our state standard (we have not fully switched to CCSS yet), I still did not know if they'd be able to figure out whether their measurements were proportional to the doll's proportions using ratios.

But I modeled my heart out for the first piece of it in order to make sure they knew what I expected and we reviewed equivalent ratios as well.  They were seriously chomping at the bit to get started.

They worked in small groups since I only had about 8 Ken dolls and 8 Barbie dolls.  By the way...have you seen Barbie dolls lately?  If not, they are soooooooo cheap looking now.  Blasphemy!!  It was rough only having about 4 rolls of measuring tape.  So, many of my students improvised and used the yarn they used for the dolls on themselves and then had to carefully use a meter stick.  Part of this was also giving them calculators if they chose to use them.  The idea is, it doesn't matter if they are doing the computation on paper, it mattered to me if they were understanding comparing one measurement to another and if they were finding equivalent ratios to compare proportions.

I was given copies of a graphic organizer that asked students to record different ratios for things like head circumference to height and head height to neck height, etc.  Each student had to measure on both the doll and themselves.

Once they found an equivalent ratio for both, they had to indicate if they were in proportion to the doll or not in the last column.

As I was coming around to each group, I noticed some were having issues finding equivalent ratios with such large or mixed numbers.  But I did find they fully understood ratios and how they relate to finding proportions.  This was a HUGE success!  I love that with STEM students don't necessarily have to do everything correct or perfectly.  If they are grasping on to the concept and reaching it via discovery...then you know what?  I determine that to be successful in a big way.  

Once students have gathered the data, they create a graph from scratch.  I had quite the goose-bump raising moment when my students took to creating double-bar graphs without any prompting from me at all.  When I asked several groups why they chose to make a double-bar graph versus any other, they told me right away that it was because they were comparing two sets of similar data!  Yessssss!  What an amazing teacher moment.  Don't you just love those?!  

While I noticed they chose increments that didn't necessarily match the data, what I found was they knew exactly how to compare the data.  My kids also had all the pieces of a properly made graph. After creating their graphs, they had to look back at their data and analyze the bits and pieces to explain whether they were in proportion to the doll and why or why not.  This was another spot where I found they had a good understanding of proportions.  

All in all, this was a successful lesson in my class for multiple reasons.  Not only that, but my students enjoyed themselves and didn't complain at all about how difficult the math concepts were for them. They put both feet in and jumped right in to the measuring and comparing.  I'd say they are definite fans of STEM as am I!  

Have you used a lesson like this in your classroom before?  How do you implement STEM in your classroom?