Friday, November 4, 2011

Abacus, Abacus, Abacus

It doesn't seem like 10 weeks have already passed, but they have flown in a whirlwind of activity.  Student lesson plans, class, kids, tests, and of course there is a life outside of schools!  My 5 children, my poor neglected husband, and my poor neglected house!

What I want to share though was a really great activity I did with all my students, 6th and 7th graders alike, and it was such a success.  I started out with a day I needed to fill an activity with, and I thought that a web quest about something related to math would be a great thing.  I found a great web quest already done up online.  It is HERE.   And I thought how cool.  I could do this.  The only problem was that when I got into school none of the links would open in the school.  Everything was fire walled.  So what I did was take the questions and the formats and play around at school to give the kids some links that they could actually open in the school so they could start an abacus web quest.  However... I tacked on something at the end that wasn't in the original web quest.  I added a PROJECT. 

Students had to make their own abacus out of common household objects.  Student were graded on realistic representation of an abacus, did they bring it in on time, and I threw in some creativity points to get them really going.  (Of course they all got those points, but they don't need to know that!)

And let me say.  I got some of the best in show's ever.  The whole school was talking about "Hey what do these kids have?  What did they do for Mrs. Ryan's class".   After the kids brought them to school, I gave them another day to get on the net and figure out how to properly use their abacus.  The second grade was given the next day when they had to do a presentation.  It was a simple 100 points.  50 points for the students explaining what their abacus was made of, and 50 points for working a math problem that required them to at least go to the 10's place value.  You know they all wanted to do 2 + 2.... not happening!

So, I know you are dying to know what the abacus' were made out of.  Here is a small list:
Sticks, shoe boxes, bamboo, tape, string, zip ties, apple jacks, fruit loops, cheerios, life savers, cookie crisp, beads, fishing weights, fishing line, coat hangars, buttons, paper, pipe cleaners, coke cans, pop tabs... and the list goes on!  I will try to add some picture very soon of some of my favorites.   But now, more importantly, what did they learn:

What is an abacus?  In this technological age, I was hard pressed to find a student who knew what one was.  My favorite was the kid who said... oh yeah, that's the thing baby's play with.... some thought it was a food....

The history of the abacus.  How did people add so long ago?  And how long ago are we talking?  Is it still used today? 

From a teacher's perspective:

The kids just made their OWN manipulative!  Of yes.... how awesome is that!

More importantly, research has shown that the abacus has a positive effect on the working memory, positive effect on mental calculations, and was attributed to a rise in IQ by a mean of 7.11 points.  There is so much more research that shows the positive cognitive impacts just from the use of an abacus... much better than those new versions (calculators). 

Feel free to comment if you have questions.  Thanks and have a great week!