What's your favorite color?
What's your favorite food?
Is this how your typical graphing unit goes? Mine too! Until this year, my students were always graphing the same boring answers to the same types of boring questions. This year I decided to make our graphing activities more meaningful. I wanted to increase engagement with math as well but I didn't know how.
Then by fluke, I was on lunch duty and a group of my students were flipping water bottles (ughhhh). Normally this would drive me crazy but then I thought, they are obsessed with water bottle flipping. What if I can turn that into a math activity?
So, I did! Read on to find out how!
On the off chance that you don't know about bottle flipping (lucky you), here is a vid that demonstrates it:
Synopsis: Flip a bottle that is partially filled with water. Whoever gets their bottle to land upright first is the winner.
The Graphing Activity:
Okay, back to the math activity....I picked two students to start with (I chose the 2 boys that were doing the most bottle flipping) to compete in the bottle flipping challenge. Before they started I handed out ballots for each student to vote for who they thought would win and how many tries they thought it would take. I had them write their names on their ballots because I planned to use those ballots for other data management activities like figuring out the mode and median!
I collected all the ballots but didn't announce who most people voted for yet. Then they started the challenge. The rest of the students crowded around for the intense battle! It was so much fun (yes even for me!). We kept track of how many flips they were doing until one of them won! But that wasn't the end! This was just trial one.
Before moving on to trial 2, I went through the ballots and shared who most people thought would win. Then I asked them if they would change their prediction based on our new data (the new winner). I saved the ballots because I knew I wanted to milk this engagement for future math lessons (calculating mode and median).
I recorded their data on the board (not in a graph at this point). We talked about the data and I asked them what the best way to display this data would be. There were a few options shared but we settled on a double bar graph as the one that would best represent this data.
I made sure to discuss the scale for the graph and what numbers they thought would be best to use. This led into a great discussion about scale in graphs and how if we were calculating something like babies born in a certain years, we would use a much larger scale.
This activity was so engaging for my students because it involved something they were interested in. It turned math into a real world problem for them!
AND.......they also stopped flipping bottles obsessively during class time! I think once I legitimized it and turned it into a learning opportunity, it lost the overwhelming appeal. Now they just stick to bottle flipping at recess. WIN WIN!
If you're looking for this activity and other graphing activities for third and fourth grade, you can find them by clicking here or the images in this post.