a journal of our edible education

Watermelon Math – Part Two

We don’t often think of math as a form of communication.  Words, not numbers, are usually the first to come to mind when we think of sharing information or ideas.  For instance, when we want to tell someone about a newly harvested watermelon many adjectives spring to mind: sweet, juicy, fat, red, striped, delicious etc.. However as soon as we say “bigger than a bread box” we are, even subconsciously, using math as a way to describe or communicate information about our watermelon.  Obviously, a bread box is hardly a consistent unit of measurement but it instantly tells you something about our success by way of mathematical comparison .

As part of our Watermelon Math lesson we challenged our upper grade students to think about numerical ways of describing these fruits and using standard units of measurement to communicate their findings.  Estimation was a great way to start this exercise.  Having students guess, often builds momentum for discovery.  It is challenging to describe the chaotic energy of these students as they worked and it’s difficult to measure the “light bulb” moments in kilowatts.  They may not remember the formulas they used or the numbers they calculated but hopefully, more importantly, they will think differently about the concepts of circumference, surface area, weight and volume.  They will probably think differently about watermelons as well.

Many might say, “Do you really need a watermelon for this exercise?”.  Of course not, but if you’ve never brought watermelons into a middle school classroom  (which has been watching those melons swell for the last month) you are really missing something.  It kind of makes you feel sorry for those poor students who are stuck with measuring styrofoam spheres.

Using string to find circumference

Using string to find circumference

Estimating circumference

Estimating circumference

The weigh-in

The weigh-in

Understanding volume by water displacement

Understanding volume by water displacement

Critical observation

Critical observation

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