Shane Hill | September 18, 2020
We’ve all had the experience at times of needing a bit more information before we can fully comprehend a new idea, let alone the implications of that idea. Let’s say we’re watching a movie and we see a Sheriff and his large group of volunteer deputies in the desert. They’re going to ambush a gang of robbers in the gully near Jacksons Creek and the sheriff is explaining how they’re going to do it. As the plan grows in complexity and the deputies start asking questions, the sheriff kneels in the sand and draws a map to illustrate the strategy. What we’re seeing is the sheriff move from engaging the senses of hearing and mental visual imagery to then also engaging the actual visual sense, providing another significant input of information and therefore increasing comprehension of the plan.
Now let's include auditory, visual and kinaesthetic elements to maths.
For this activity your students each need a ruler. After introducing the concept of measuring and managing a place or a space, tell the students they’re going to measure the space within the walls of the classroom. Divide the students into four groups. Each group will measure the length of one wall. The first student places their ruler against the wall in a corner. The next student places their ruler on the end of the first student’s ruler. The next student in the group places their ruler on the end of the second ruler and on it goes.
As each student reaches the rear end of the line of rulers they move back to the front of the line to replace their ruler in the line and continue measuring. Students must count the number of ruler lengths across the wall and then calculate the length of the wall. It’s a ridiculous but playful way to measure the length of a wall and every student is on their feet and actively involved.
When you have the length of the four walls, measure the height of the room in the same manner with just two students while the others count out the ruler lengths. Just make an estimate if the ceiling is too high. You’ve now measured a three-dimensional space and can briefly discuss what is in the space, in terms of objects and what those objects are made of and the other environmental features and characteristics of the space. This is also a good time to introduce the notion of managing the space and discuss managing such characteristics as air temperature and lighting conditions in the classroom. The simple idea that the air temperature in the classroom is actually being ‘managed’ gives a new perspective on what it means to get too hot and turn the air conditioning on.
Tell the students you want them to work in pairs and measure five mini-spaces in the classroom. To demonstrate, take a ruler and move around the room calling out two things you are measuring the distance between and use students as a point to measure from. You might say ‘Caroline’s earlobe, corner of the table’ or ‘Sarita’s elbow, the door handle’ or ‘Damien’s knee, the zip on his pencil case’.
Remind the students to measure the length, width and height of their mini-space and, perhaps most importantly, to use the set of questions you gave earlier to quantify and write down the characteristics of the mini-space.
But here’s the mayhem factor. If Jack suddenly finds Tom and Sam measuring the distance from his ankle to the chair leg, Jack is not allowed to move. He can continue to work with his partner from
where he is and he might even help Tom and Sam collect their data if it frees him up to move again, but he must keep that body-part where it is. The only other rule is that Tom and Sam must announce the points they are measuring between, as just demonstrated by you, ensuring the person being used as a point to measure between has been made aware and is now obliged to remain where they are until the pair is finished defining their mini-space.
Now for the mayhem… only now do you tell the students it’s a race to see which pair will record their five mini-spaces first and ready steady go!
The natural conclusion of the game will be the first team to record their five mini-spaces and announce it to the group but it can be stopped at any time if needed. It really doesn’t matter how many mini-spaces are actually measured by each pair; the action of doing it repeatedly in the three-dimensional world gives students the tangible experience of defining a space, discussing the management of a space has already occurred and the concepts and processes can now be applied to much larger spaces in the natural world and conversations for large-scale environmental management can be had.