I said BOOM!


This is how a math assessment started.

I wish I had a math assessment that started like this at school.

This year I’m embarking on some research to integrate Arts infused activities into Mathematics and English lessons. Myself and a colleague (Caroline Kühn) are experimenting how we can enhance engagement in Math and hopefully understanding…

Grade 6 Math started their year with ratios and rates. One lesson out of three we plan and lead the activities but in a co-teaching scenario with the Math teacher. We meet with the Math teachers weekly as part of their planning session, mostly listening, primarily because I am coming to terms with the concepts (again after twenty odd years) and secondly while listening to them it gives me a chance to see where I can fit activities in.

The course started with ratios and rates which was great because there is loads of information on quilt making, mosaics, golden ratio, etc and I was geared up to go in this direction but then had a small epiphany in a drama class where we were studying Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. One of his warm-up exercises could be used to express ratios and build little musical sequences! So we ran with that.

I took the Boal warm up “two by three” and applied it to a whole group situation, which we did as so….

First, we had a warm up to create focus which was achieved by making a consistent rhythm as a whole class, just by clapping one after another in a circle – looking at the person you received the sound from and looking to the person you passed it to. This then was replaced by numbers 1, 2, 3 – that went around the circle (our number of participants was a multiple of three). The warm-up was then developed replacing a number with a sound (pop, snap, snap). Once established (i.e.sounds in a constant rhythm) we set out finding the ratios as a class. After part to part and part to whole ratios became clear the students broke off into smaller groups to create their own rhythms. This could also easily be done with movement instead of sounds. Groups then presented to each other and those observing wrote the ratios they saw and heard, we even had one keen group of boys laying down some beatbox patterns. These were then discussed, asking for reasoning why, and debated. It is incredible how rich even just these little self-devised rhythms were and how invested the students became having to present their own.

In the next lesson, we repeated establishing a group feeling with a whole class rhythm and then broke off, creating small group sequences. Each group received a stopwatch and timed one (or more rounds). We argued that as a constant rhythm all the sounds took exactly the same amount of time, then we set the students the task of finding rates. The student then became competent calculating rates of a certain sound for X amount of rounds that we asked for.

The following week I did a quick review activity to cover all the concepts we had covered. We made a taco. This is a load of fun and can be found here. It is simple but can become very complex if you want it to be, with a number of different ratios that can be created and compared.

An assessment followed the next week which can be found here. I lead the students into the assessment task with a call and respond warm-up (BOOM, CHUCKA)… it was a good scaffolding and led well into the students creating their own patterns which the assessment was based off.

Upon reflection, there is still loads of scope for development in this little topic of ratios and rates. The original idea could be developed to contain movement and a narrative that explores ratios or rates, being built on each week and the assessment could be ongoing. If I didn’t have the physical timetable boundaries I would love to be in every lesson and the continuity could really be built upon. Then the unit could, for example, become a study of hip-hop, the development of beatboxing, and how ratios work in those patterns. The opportunities are literally limitless.

For more posts on Arts, creativity and the creative process check out my blog.

Header image by Nela.

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