Saturday, September 7, 2013

Introducing the Concept of Rate

This week, I finished up working on helping my students to understand basic ratios through a variety of activities. Yesterday, I introduced the idea of rate by posing a challenge  to my students.

Given two tracks, can anyone beat me in a hopping race???

The students were first asked to examine the two tracks and make predictions about who would win this race. (When making your two tracks it is important that the teacher's track is spaced out to cover twice the distance of the student's track.)

It was a lot of fun to hear the different predictions. My most challenging and most active class (also at the end of the day) was really into it. They noticed right away that the race would not be fair and started throwing out phrases such as "You are trying to cheat us!". This really got them to be engaged!

Once the students had a chance to analyze both tracks, I chose a student at random (I use popscicle sticks with their names on them) to race against. I raced against four different students. The rules were that each person on each track would have to hop the distance alloted them by the post-it notes and every post-it note had to be hit. The first person to make it to their last post-it note would win. (To make it even more competitive, I taunted them a bit and kept writing the score on the board each time I beat one of them. Have fun with it!)

After I raced the four lucky students, we began to discuss the activity further. I had a few prompting questions in my mind prior to starting the discussion. (Since I want the kids to discover the idea of rate on their own, I wanted to make sure I did not give away too much information.) Students were partnered up and asked to journal their thoughts in their math notebooks as we discussed with the whole group.

  1. Was the race fair, why or why not?
  2. Why was I able to win each race?
  3. What do you notice about my track compared to your track?
My students did a nice job (all ability levels) of coming to the conclusion that I was able to hop a larger distance each time I hopped than they were able to. My more advanced math class began using frequency tables to analyze the information and were right on the verge of coming up with their own definition of rate when it was time to leave class, so I will have to continue discussion on Monday. It was hard to not tell them the answer, but very rewarding to see them thinking it through and so actively engaged. I will be completing this lesson Monday and will write more about its conclusion at a later date!

I also came across some really good hands-on lessons (already made up for you) that help students work with and use unit rate at ILLUMINATIONS. I plan to use these next week as I continue introducing the concept of unit rate and its uses.

Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful week!

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