Power Behind the Weekly Wonder

Bridges has a new feature! The Weekly Wonder can be found on the Bridges Educator Site.

The initial Weekly Wonder demonstrates how technology — the Number Rack app — can unlock the mathematical power of three little beads. Bridges sessions are often structured so that the teacher acts as the facilitator and the students essentially teach themselves and others; this is how I presented the Weekly Wonder.

Image of student using Number Line app

This problem focuses on addition combinations and discovering the many ways 3 can be made with a varying number of rows on the Number Rack, starting with one row. I presented it to my students, let them discover what they could do with it, and then held a forum. The problem may seem simple for grade 5, but somehow my students naturally extended the problem and connected it back to the heavy learning they’ve been doing with fractions. Unit 2 and Unit 5 of Grade 5 Bridges are all about fractions.

Build 3 Beads Problem of the Week

When my students first saw the defaulted 3 beads with one row, the conversation started out with what expression described the 3 red beads, 3 + 0 and 0 + 3. They then thought about the red and white colors on the Number Rack and continued to make 3 with one row: all 3 white, 2 white + 1 red, and 1 white + 2 red.

Students continued on to make 3 with two rows, using 1 bead on top and 2 on the bottom. Again, they described what they saw as 1 + 2 and knew they could also show 2 + 1. Then three rows led them to 1 bead in each row and naming it as 1 + 1 + 1. Here’s how our conversation went:

Teacher: Why could you make 3 in only one way with three rows but more ways with other numbers of rows?

Student 1: Maybe because of how small the number is — we’re only working with 3.

Student 2: Three goes into 3 only once.

Teacher: Do you think we can make 3 with four rows? What do you know about 4?

Student 3: No, it’s 1 more than 3.

Student 4: We could think of fractions. We could use 1 bead in each row and cut them into fourths. There would be 12 fourths, which is equal to 3!

Number Line app

Teacher: Do you think we can use 6 rows to make 3?

Student 1: There would be too many ones if we use 6 rows. Too many whole numbers

Student 5: Then 6 beads could be divided in half.

Student 4: We could show 6 half pieces or 6 halves, which is equal to 3, too!

Teacher: What would that look like?

Although the initial Weekly Wonder wanted students to think about addition combinations, my fifth graders really extended their learning on their own. I merely guided the conversation with a few on-the-spot questions. As the MLC homepage points out, “Math has the power of transforming three simple beads into endless problem solving and discovery.”

Just put the Weekly Wonder out there and the students will take care of the rest.