4.MD 1: The Corner Store & A Whale’s Tail! (#274)

A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 274

For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math. Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.”

And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times.” Why ambient? A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful. The CCSS math standards are listed here in blue followed by their ambient counterparts.

Measurement and Data 4.MD
Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit.
1. Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm, kg, g; lb, oz; l, ml; min, sec.  Within a single system of measurement, express measurements of a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit.  Record measurement equivalents in a two column table.  For example, know that 1 foot is 12 times as long as 1 in.  Express the length of a 4 foot snake as 48 in.  Generate a conversion table for feet and inches, listing the number pairs (1, 12), (2, 24), (3, 36), . . .

An online search for CCSS lessons and materials turned up lots of interesting interpretations of this standard, some of them game-based, some pattern-based, and some online skills practice.  While most of these were thoughtful and/or challenging, and engaging to some extent, they still left something to be desired.  That is, the element of story and picture, making it all colorfully relevant to the fourth grader.

Grade 3 measurement lessons are intensive and complete.  All of the information listed above is covered in a 3 to 4 week comprehensive measurement block.  The facts are made compelling, relevant, and effective because anecdotal biography, history, and pictorial examples and illustrations are included.  Economy is the soul of good teaching.  Faith and trust in both student and teacher is evident when concepts are taught deeply (just once) then reviewed briefly, not extensively and not overly repetitively.  Fourth grade measurement could be integrated with all other subjects, thereby adding relevance and meaning.

For example, measurements could be taken as part of a human and animal study: how long is a whale, in yards, in feet?  Comparatively, how long are its fins or its tail?  What is the relative size of the krill eaten by a Baleen whale?  Tiny!  Larger measurements could be included in the study of local geography: how many feet measures the distance from your front door to the corner store?  What part of a mile is that distance, as a fraction, as a decimal?  Love this wonderful whale pair in a fourth grader’s main lesson book (from a jamedaris’ pinterest page).

In short, math cannot/should not be extricated from its source, stood in a corner, and made to perform, on demand.  Subtlety is where math shines and lives.  Children understand this so much more than we do, consequently it violates a sacred trust to expose the beautiful nature of math (or theirs for that matter) to a harsh reality that distorts its (and their) innate beauty and integrity.

Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of knowledge as a worthy goal. Tune in tomorrow for more Grade 4 math CCSS and their ambient counterparts.