Grade 3: Noah’s Ark & Measurement In Cubits (#218)


A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
Day 218

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.

When I taught third grade in a Waldorf school in Michigan, we covered the Old Testament in its entirety, with stories taken from the Bible that were told each day.  Math By Hand offers creation stories from many cultures, but the Old Testament stories serve the purpose well.  That purpose being, echoing the transition from young to middle childhood.  These stories help to allay any unsettling feelings that may arise by assuring that “life outside the garden wall” is not only feasible but can be lived with grace and well-being.

When we came to the story of Noah’s Ark, Genesis told us this: “And this is the fashion which you shall make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.”  So we proceeded to make our version of the Royal Cubit that resided in the Pharaoh’s palace in Ancient Egypt.  A simplified version of course, but the length was accurate and basic symbols were etched onto the wooden rod that we had painted a glossy black.  Here is a section of the cubit rod that resides in the Louvre.

The third graders were amazed at the sheer size of the Ark, and this served as an excellent introduction to not only the way we’ve measured objects from the beginning of time, but also afforded a glimpse of the earliest tools used for measurement.  Transitioning into modern measurement from here was accomplished through historical and anecdotal stories of how today’s measurement units came to be.

Johan Huibers of the Netherlands took 20 years to build a full-scale, fully-operational version of Noah’s Ark, using the Bible’s Genesis, Books 6-9 as his guide.  He converted cubits to modern measurements, building the vessel 427 feet long, 95 feet wide, and 75 feet high.


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 again tomorrow for more Grade 3 fun!

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