Fourth Grade Play- Polygons

Play-to-learn days have become the highlight of our math workshop! Image We just spent the first few days of our exploration of geometry looking at polygons and angles.

We knew we wanted to have a couple of days of play before more formally launching the unit. We also thought it might be useful to talk about the other play we’ve done in math this year. We reminded students of the Array Play Days, and of our Fraction Play, and discussed how play leads to discovery. It was interesting to liken the play we’ve done in math to the play they do when they are playing outside of class. At first they had seen it as something very different.

“If we’re playing, then we can do anything. Like throw things around and stuff. But we can’t throw stuff around the classroom. That’s not what you mean.”

“When do you throw stuff around when you play?” I asked.

“Like when we’re playing basketball or monkey in the middle, or stuff like that.”

“It seems like throwing things is part of some play, but not all play. Because I never see you throw stuff when you’re playing scrabble or doing those battles with your fingers, for example.”

“Well, no, that wouldn’t make sense.”

So we talked a bit more about how the way we play adjusts itself to the things we’re playing with. It also came out that we learn and discover no matter what we’re playing, whether it’s finger battles, monkey in the middle, or arrays.

“So I guess I should ask you then, what kind of play makes sense with these materials?” I asked as I pulled out a set of Power Polygons. “Not throwing, probably, because there are some really pointy parts, but what else are you envisioning yourself doing with them as soon as you get some into your hands?”

Amia makes a shape to trace into her math notebook

Amia makes a shape to trace into her math notebook

Making designs, building, layering and tracing all came up, and that’s where we started.

Matthew tries to create a standing structure.

Matthew tries to create a standing structure.

Soon, without prompting from the teachers (we were playing a bit, too!), kids started to make discoveries about equivalence, angle measure, fractions, and more.

Alexis noticed several ways to make squares of the same size. Looking at the fractions (half as a triangle vs. half as a rectangle) reminded her of an earlier discovery that equivalent doesn't mean congruent.

Alexis noticed several ways to make squares of the same size. Looking at the fractions (half as a triangle vs. half as a rectangle) reminded her of an earlier discovery that equivalent doesn’t mean congruent.

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Diana explores equivalence in her notebook.

Some kids started trying to figure out if they could figure out the measures of angles, given that they knew that a right angle was 90°. This led to the discovery that going all the way around a point is 360°.

Daniela is sketching three rhombuses that share one point among them.

The rhombuses have 120º angles and 60º angles. When layered, two 60º angles are equal to one 120º angle.

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From here, we decided to make posters to share the learning.

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While we were at it, we embedded some vocabulary teaching into the work and asked kids to help us create visual definitions for a list of words.

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On the third day, we had a gallery walk and an extended share/ discussion/ Q and A about our discoveries. This was a fun way to launch a geometry study!

While Morgan shares, she revises her thinking about isosceles triangles.

While Morgan shares, she revises her thinking about isosceles triangles.

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Nina and Isa share how the Power Polygons helped them make their discoveries.

One thought on “Fourth Grade Play- Polygons

  1. Just realized my comment went on the wrong page. I meant to put it here!

    Hi Stephanie,
    I love this post! I am always looking for examples of teachers allowing students to build intuition through experience, and also for students to have opportunities to investigate and ask questions in math. You’ve done both here! Can we chat off-line sometime? I am writing a book about teaching math and would love to learn more about what you’re doing. Thanks! You can find me on twitter or at tracyzager@gmail.com
    Best,
    Tracy

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