Since the day after elections, I've been trying to figure out a way to help students understand how amazing the Coleman/Franken election results are. 2.9 million votes cast and a margin of 206 between the winner and loser! That's insane. But how to help the Elms share my wonder and awe?

Today Cathy collected all of the "Base 10" blocks we could find in the school. These are centimeter cubes, "longs" of 10 cubes, "flats" of 100 cubes, and then 1,000 cubes. We had boxes of them. I challenged the Elms to show me 2.9 million cubes -- each cube would represent one vote in the senate election (we reviewed that 2.9 million=2,900,000 using what we had learned earlier.)

They began by creating a "10,000 long" with 10 of the thousand cubes. Good enough. I subtracted
10,000 from 2,900,000. They were undaunted. They began stacking hundreds flats 10 high. When those ran out, they gathered 100 ten sticks to make a thousand. Elms were scouring the school for more blocks -- some grabbed centimeter grid paper to make more blocks out of paper. When someone yelled, "I'll dump all the ones out so we can count out a thousand!" I stopped them.

We looked at our work. We'd gotten to 50,000. Some students were still convinced we were close -- if we could just find a few more blocks. Several students suggested that we make a "one" cube worth something else like 2, 5, or even 100 votes. It was a great idea -- but one that the rest of the class wasn't quite ready to absorb. Instead, we visualized what 100,000 would look like. I got some meter sticks to help us (it's a square meter). We then counted up 10 of giant flats to make a million (this is a cubic meter). We contemplated just how many blocks we would have needed to create this. Then we constructed a second meter cube. We'd run out of meter sticks but we imagined another, almost complete millions cube.

Then I held up those two hundred flats and 6 one cubes. They were absolutely dwarfed by our three giant millions cubes. "Sometimes people don't vote because they think their vote doesn't count -- look at how few votes this race depends upon." Insane.

Followed you from Math Teachers at Play. VERY cool lesson!

Cindy

http://love2learn2day.blogspot.com

Posted by: Cindy | September 19, 2010 at 04:25 PM