Dino-Mite Explorations. (Investigations)

Article excerpt

The purpose of the "Investigations" department is to provide mathematically rich and inviting contexts in which children and their teachers solve problems, communicate, and reason. Investigations encourage students to make connections among mathematical ideas, as well as connections with contexts outside of mathematics. As students collaborate, experiment, explore, collect data, research various sources, and engage in activities during the investigation, they will have opportunities to represent their mathematical ideas in multiple ways.

Investigations comprise a number of tasks that collectively promote deep examination of a core topic and question. They are open-ended and often require more than one period to complete. The following investigation has been enriched by teacher reflections. The tasks are expected to mark a point of departure for students and teachers to embark on thoughtful, coherent mathematical explorations.

In this investigation, students explore the lengths, weights, and ages of various dinosaurs. (Note that the more common term weight is used for the concept of mass in this investigation.) The same book and discussion topics about measuring dinosaurs can be used to introduce the investigation for all grade levels. Then, younger students explore the length and weight of dinosaurs, and children in the upper elementary grades use proportional reasoning to analyze the size of a dinosaur and the time period in which dinosaurs existed.

Levels 2-3: Dino-mite Lengths; Dino-mite Weight


The students will--

* gather data using the Internet,

* plan and implement a strategy for solving a problem,

* estimate length and weight,

* use appropriate conventional units to measure an object,

* develop the concept of multiplication by joining equivalent sets using a calculator, and

* collect and organize data with a bar and picture graph.


The students will need--

* one "Dino-mite Lengths" reproducible sheet for each student,

* one "Dino-mite Weight" reproducible sheet for each group,

* one ruler for each student,

* one yardstick for each group,

* one ball of yarn for each group,

* one calculator for each student,

* one balance scale for each group,

* approximately twenty connecting cubes for each group, and

* one medium-sized plastic dinosaur for each group.

In addition, Patrick's Dinosaurs by Carol Carrick (1983) and a picture- or bar-graph grid drawn on butcher paper for comparing lengths of dinosaurs will be needed for this activity.

Preparing for the Investigation

This investigation is designed to take place over a two-day period. On the first day, read Patrick's Dinosaurs by Carol Carrick (1983) with the students. Ask students to pay attention to the different measurement comparisons that are presented in the book. For example, the brontosaurus (now called an apatosaurus) is described as being as heavy as ten elephants; the stegosaurus was bigger than a car; and the tyrannosaurus was as tall as a two-story building.

Structuring the Investigation

Day 1: The length of a dinosaur

1. After you read the book, explain to students that the class will conduct an investigation to compare the size of the dinosaurs with the size of second graders. Explain that the students will use the Internet to gather data on the lengths of various dinosaurs. Then, they will work in small groups; each group will be assigned a dinosaur, and the students will determine how many second-grade students would be needed to equal the length of that dinosaur. The students will have to solve this problem using only a yardstick or ruler, yarn, the hallway, and their bodies.

2. Pass out the "Dino-mite Lengths" activity sheet to the students. …