Friday, 4 March 2016

Playing with Mass

Children need time to play with maths and explore it in ways they want to. 

They also need time to grasp concepts in ways that make sense to them and that happens best when they are in control of how to learn. 

Maths learning shouldn't always be teacher directed and often it is when we take a few steps back that amazingly authentic and deep learning happens.

As we are exploring the measurement of mass and had recently enquired into the differences between mass and weight, children were grouped and presented with four key words:   mass    weight    decimals   gravity

Investigate and experiment and in half an hour you will share with us what you did and what you discovered.

They were the only instructions given.

Kitchen scales, bathroom scales, force scales and balance scales with weights were provided and they had access to everything else in our room.

Most groups gravitated towards the balance scales first.  It makes sense, I thought, they do look fun to explore and play with.

Some groups became interested in finding out if there was a relationship between the grams and millilitres.  Does it mean a kilogram equals 1 litre of water?  Is the metric system designed for that connection?`

Others wondered if the mass of water can change if you blow bubbles into it and attempted to measure a difference.

Some chose to test the measurements with different scales to see of they would get the same readings or not.

Others used informal units or estimated the mass of different objects and then measured how accurate their estimates were. 

One group wondered that when they push their hand down on the kitchen scales, whether that was their hand or the force of pushing down that was creating the measured mass or not. Can we then measure the mass of force?!? An interesting question!

Some groups dropped objects onto scales and wondered what made the kitchen scale measurement hand move when the object first landed on it.  Does that mean the force of the impact of the falling object have mass?  Does force have a mass?

Another group wanted to know how could they measure the mass of snowflakes. It was a gorgeous fat-snowflaking day so they took different scales outside attempting to measure the mass of snowflakes. They came back saying they couldn't find a way,but they felt they were successful because they tried different strategies.  Hurray! Our message we discuss throughout the year that mistakes and 'failure' can be perceived as successes being applied! :)

It was interesting to observe the different approaches children took. Those who felt it was important to record their findings and those who preferred to simply discuss and question.

It was also interesting to hear children discussing how gravity is pulling down on the objects when placed in the balance scales.

Others investigated the relationship between Newtons and grams using the force scales and tried to find the connections between those units.

These discoveries and investigations came from their own curiosity and creativity.  Rich mathematical and scientific discussions took place and I thought about how important it really is that we give children time to play and explore maths in this way.  Later as our unit into measuring mass continues, they will have a stronger awareness of what we are referring to when we discuss grams and kilograms etc.

Student owned and led enquiries are pivotal to authentic maths learning!

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