Posts Tagged ‘Elementary School Math’

In my quest for a good Three Act Problem for elementary level students, I’ve come up with two more ideas. It’s actually the same idea presented in two different ways. It’s going to hit division at the grade 3 or 4 level, I hope.

Hay Bales – Act I

Cars – Act I

These videos are rough. The car one could be fantastic if a car lot would let one of us come by with a video camera and film them loading a carrier. The hay bales one would be great if we could get a farmer to let us film him loading a truck. In the past week, I have driven to Calgary and back, Stettler and back, and Red Deer and back. I’ve seen a ton of those bales in fields. I haven’t, unfortunately, come across any of them being loaded up or hauled along the highway.

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69 Children

Here’s another attempt at an Elementary-style 3 Act problem. No photos. Just a story. I got this one from my 8 year old daughter, who likes reading the Guinness Book of World Records. This story fascinates her. In class, I’d read right from the Guinness site for Act I.

Act I

The greatest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the wife of Feodor Vassilyev (b. 1707-c. 1782), a peasant from Shuya, Russia.


Act II

Depending on what the students wonder about, you could go in some different directions here. My daughter wonders about how many of this woman’s children didn’t have a twin. In that case, the information to provide is that the 69 births contained 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets, and 4 sets of quadruplets.


The payoff here is that when students do the math above, they will discover that there was not one single case where only one child was born out of all 27 of the pregnancies. That fact makes the whole story seem suspect.


  • How would you know if the total number of children is even or odd, based on the information about twins, triplets and quadruplets?
  • Others?

I may have missed the mark here. It is entirely possible that pregnancy is a topic to be avoided in Elementary school. So far, my daughter has played around on the math on this one for a day or two now without asking me any questions that I don’t want to answer.

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I get asked frequently if anyone is compiling 3-Act Math stories in the style of Dan Meyer or learning through problem solving activities specifically for elementary school. I’m not aware of anyone cataloguing them at the elementary level, probably because most elementary school teachers have to teach everything, not just math. It’s daunting, and probably hard to focus so much on one subject. Here’s the thing that occurred to me, though. Because Act I is typically completely visual, and we ask students what THEY wonder about, won’t they automatically wonder about things at their own level? I think that many of the ones presented on this blog would work in an elementary classroom with minor tweaks to Act II (and maybe Act III). I’ll use the ticket roll video I posted yesterday to explain.

Act I – Same Video Used for High School Students https://vimeo.com/69124531

I assume elementary school students will also wonder how far Sarah will get. The high school kids will get dimensions of a ticket and work with area and volume to determine how many tickets are on the roll. What if we just change the Act II information we provide for elementary school students?

Act II – Modified for Elementary School Tell the students that there are 2000 tickets on the roll, and show them the video below. https://vimeo.com/69173213

Act III – Same Video Used for High School Students Play the same answer video from my previous post. The answer is the same. The payoff is the same. The math is more elementary. https://vimeo.com/69123114 The answer the will come up with (by dividing) is actually a little too close. I was hoping it would be messier in the end so the students could discuss why it might not have been so accurate.

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