Recently, my students were preparing to go on another learning adventure, this time with world renowned polar explorer, Pen Hadow. In preparation for our Google Hangout with him, my students and I did some preliminary research. We understood that he was the only person to ever reach the geographic North Pole, unassisted and without resupply! That got our math brains working! We pulled up the world map and the discussion began:
“Where did Pen start his adventure? How far did he travel? How long did it take him? How many steps would he have taken? How many hours a day could he travel? How did he travel?”
From the discussion came our math challenges for the day. My students were off to work, fully engaged, inspired and determined to solve the problems (they also knew that they’d be sharing their findings with Mr. Hadow the following day)!
As the bell rang, my students’ math brains were clearly spent but they had all persevered to solve the problems collectively, as teams. Many of my students did not want to leave and asked if they could bring their math home to continue working on it!
The following day the kids returned to school excited to meet the explorer they had based their math on. While waiting to embark on their adventure with Pen at 10 am, they returned to their math questions and started asking more questions! I circulated and tweeted this to Mr. Hadow:
The buzz of excitement quickly turned to silence as my students, with their Adventure Logs in hand, returned to their seats and buckled up for their trip to the arctic via Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants! The full video of our trip:
During our visit with Pen Hadow, my students shared their math thinking and understanding with him and he was clearly impressed and pleased that he had inspired and challenged them to do some pretty real math. They went on to discuss the actual distance he had travelled (770km from a tiny island off of Ellesmere to the North Pole) opposed to our estimated distance. During the Hangout a few of my students quickly did the math: Mr. Pen Hadow had walked alone, unassisted, and without resupply taking approximately 1 540 000 steps to reach his destination!
In addition to math, my students learned about growth mindset, grit, global warming and the polar bear. Mr. Hadow also spoke about the three states of matter and the difference in the thickness of ice between the North Pole (2-3 metres) and the South Pole (1600 metres). My students Adventure journals reflect some of their additional learning:
Math and opportunity for learning are all around us and the sky is the limit as to where we can take our students. Sometimes it just requires a little thinking and exploring outside of the text.
Would love to hear your ideas for teaching real math!