Week 3: Grades 3-5

This Week of Inspirational Math is dedicated to Maryam Mirzakhani

It is with both pleasure and sadness that I dedicate this year’s “Week of Inspirational Mathematics” to the life and work of my friend and colleague who tragically died recently – the mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani. A few months ago we held a workshop for middle school girls at Stanford, I discussed the workshop with Maryam before-hand and we agreed that I would share her photos and ideas – many of the girls came up to me afterwards and said that learning about Maryam changed everything for them.


Click here for the full text of Jo Boaler’s dedication, a radio show and video about Maryam, and a topology task honoring her work


Day 1
Halving (Grades 3-5)

One misconception students often have when learning about fractions is that to half something you must cut it into only two pieces of the same shape. This task develops the idea of different ways of creating half of a whole. It allows students to be artistic and create interesting patterns of their own. It also allows students to describe and justify their thinking. In this task students are asked to consider ways to prove that a square is split in half and also to think of other ways to split a square in half and convince others that it is split in half.

Content: Area, cutting in half, part-whole relationship, making convincing arguments, critiquing other people's arguments

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Day 2
Game of Totals (Grades 3-5)

This activity is a fun way to develop an understanding of quantity and ways to make a total of 25. In this activity students will have an opportunity to count, add, keep track of totals, and use visuals to see the sum. Students will consider what quantities they will need to reach a total of 25 and will also create a strategy for reaching a total before their partner does.

Content: Counting, finger discrimination, making conjectures, organizing, visualizing quantity

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Day 3
One Cut Geometry (Grades 3-5)

This is a mind-blowing activity! We love it here at Youcubed and every time we have used it people walk away celebrating the challenge and their mistakes! The goal is to create 2-D geometrical shapes by cutting them out of a folded piece of paper with just one cut. Are you intrigued? Join us on a wonderful adventure.

Content: Symmetry, shapes, investigating, making conjectures, testing conjectures

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Day 4
Building Shapes (Grades 3-5)

This is one of our favorite team building activities. Students work together using a rope to create 3-D shapes. The teacher plays the role of the skeptic and asks students to justify how they know their shape satisfies its defined characteristics. Students will need everyone in their group to successfully build these complex shapes and provide a convincing argument.

Content: Describing and making 2-D and 3-D shapes, making convincing arguments, critiquing other people's arguments

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Day 5
Framing Rectangles (Grades 3-5)

In this activity students get creative with making rectangles out of square tiles. This activity makes space for our young mathematicians to count, describe shapes, explore ideas, build with square tiles, investigate conjectures, organize findings, add and takeaway square tiles, and record ideas with visuals.

Content: Counting, making rectangles, making borders

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Messing with Pascal (Grades 3-5)

This activity allows students to explore number patterns within Pascal’s Triangle. They will investigate and ask questions about what happens as constraints are changed. This task is an example of ways mathematicians explore and adapt patterns.

Content: Patterns, Pascal's triangle, investigating, organize findings

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Computational Thinking by Polyup (Grades 3-5)

Polyup is a free and open computational thinking playground where students can experiment with numbers and functions. Students will "mod", or modify, a variety of expressions, equations, and algorithms to solve mathematical puzzles and discover the beauty of math in a visual environment. With self-paced activities geared towards 3-5th, 6-8th, and 9-12th grades, Polyup works great as a supplement to any math classroom. It is available on the web and runs on any device, including Chromebooks, phones, and tablets.

Content: Number Sense, Operations, Order of Operations, Introduction to Problem Solving

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