Friday, June 16, 2017

I'm a Math Coach, and Trust Me When I Say This is Better Than a Fidget Spinner!

The day I announced that we were going to do some math challenges with fidget spinners, the gadgets were permanently banned at school. (If it hasn't already happened at your school, it's going to.) The fourth grade teacher leaned over and whispered, "I can't say I'm disappointed."

Yeah, I get that. Fidget spinners are the WORST. Like a purple llama doing cartwheels through the classroom.


I love the idea of kids doing a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) challenge that gets them excited about inquiry, data collection, art, math, and more. And STEAM is what I wanted to use those blasted spinners for.

So I went back to the drawing board and created an even better challenge. Why is it better? Because students MAKE THEIR OWN SPINNERS! A made-in-China-possibly-filled-with-lead fidget spinner will never get kids excited about STEAM like their own creations will.  So take a glimpse at how these students made spinning tops, recorded spin times, and graphed the data...

Fold the Spinner: Math Vocab

First, fourth graders followed along with me as I demonstrated how to fold an origami spinner. Along the way, we stopped and made observations about the shapes being created. I heard a lot of mathematical terms and attributes of shapes, like:
  • trapezoid
  • parallelogram
  • rhombus
  • square
  • rectangle
  • parallel sides
  • perpendicular
  • angles: acute, right
  • congruent
  • lines of symmetry
  • and more...! 
Pretty awesome for a few minutes of paper folding!

Combine Math & Art

Next, the kids dove into art. They considered what would happen to the spin image if they colored their tops with different fractional color combinations. For example, how might two primary colors look while spinning? What would a spiral or dots or squares look like? What would black and white do? Kids used crayons, gel pens, stickers. We ended up with all kinds of creations.

Collect & Graph Data

Then it was time to spin, baby, spin! Students worked in pairs to time the length of spins and graph their data. Challenges were posed and kids delved into scientific inquiry as they noticed that some spinners went far longer than others. Many tweaked their creations, hoping that a slightly different design would increase their spin time. 

Finally, students did a second set of trials in which they changed a variable. Our students clearly know a lot about science, technology, engineering, art, and math! 

They begged for instructions to take home.


In the summer?

Well, I guess. Only if you really, really want it...!!!!

Then I gave them a summer challenge: to develop a spinner that would go for 40 seconds. I can't wait to see what they come up with! Have a great summer, all!!

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