Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Math: A Video Library, K-4

Woodpecker Habitat

Video Overview

This class has been studying animal habitats. Students now apply probability and sampling techniques to study the habitat of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Students first listen to an article on the woodpecker and discuss what the bird needs to survive. In groups, students draw colored cubes out of a paper bag to simulate the woodpecker1s habitat. The colors represent elements that would either benefit or harm a woodpecker, such as trees, insects, space, logging, and development. Without knowing what the colors represent, each group takes one cube from the bag, records the color, returns the cube to the bag, and repeats the process until it has recorded ten draws. Groups discuss their samples, learn what each color represents, and continue with their simulation. Throughout the video, students use counting and addition. They explore the concept of chance when they determine which colors are or are not likely to be drawn. The groups then use their calculators to find the total number they drew of each color. The class reconvenes, and students empty their bags and discuss the quantities of each color. Then they use calculators to find the class total of the numbers each group recorded for each color. Finally, students discuss the implications of their findings.

Topics for Discussion

The following areas provide a focus for discussion after you view the video. You may want to customize these areas or focus on your own discussion ideas.

Using Simulations

  1. Mr. Sears developed the woodpecker-habitat simulation that students investigated in the lesson. What is the purpose of using simulations in learning?

  2. Describe the simulation used in the lesson. What procedures did students follow? Identify the elements that go into a good simulation.

  3. Why might Mr. Sears have waited until after students had made ten draws to tell them what the cubes represented? Why might he not have told students the number of cubes in the bag?

  4. Give examples of the students1 understanding of the concept of sampling. What criteria would you use to evaluate a student1s understanding of sampling? How did the simulation provide a way for Mr. Sears to assess the students1 understanding of mathematics?

  5. Why are larger samples more reliable? What evidence can be found that students understood this mathematical idea?

  6. What considerations do you need to take into account when planning a simulation for such young children?

    Making Connections

  • How did Mr. Sears relate this lesson to the students1 prior experiences?

  • Identify how the mathematics in this lesson was connected to the world outside the classroom. What would the simulation of drawing cubes and noting the color have been like without the rich context provided by the real-world connection?

  • Mr. Sears developed the lesson from an article he read in the newspaper. Describe other ways to place a mathematics task in a real-world context of interest to children.

  • What connections did the lesson make to other subjects? How were reading and writing part of this lesson?

  • What connections were made among the mathematics topics in the lesson?


    Habitat Simulation Follow-up
    In a group do the following activity. Prepare bags of cubes that represent different kinds of habitats for the red-cockaded woodpecker. Some bags should represent healthy or balanced habitats, whereas other bags should represent detrimental habitats. Do not tell anyone what is in the bags. Divide into smaller groups and use sampling to decide whether the habitat represented by the bag of cubes is healthful or detrimental for the woodpecker.

    Real-Life Connections

    Think of ways to make more real-life connections when teaching mathematics. For example, brainstorm structures or objects within 100 meters of the school that could provide contexts for investigating mathematics. For another activity, discuss how to use the newspaper for teaching mathematics. Divide into pairs and look through newspapers for ideas to develop into mathematics learning tasks.

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