A Math Adventure in Class 3

A Math Adventure in Class 3

“Mathematicians, welcome to the escape expedition!” said Head Teacher Miranda Orbach, a hint of mystery in her voice.

As she gradually revealed the morning’s activity, her Class 3 students’ eyes widened in anticipation. Leaning forward to catch every word, they learned the dire circumstances from which they needed to escape: After a mishap caused their canoe to sink, each person was now wet, cold and alone in the woods, miles from home. To find their way back, they needed to overcome a variety of math-centered obstacles.

“Are you ready for the challenge?” asked Ms. Orbach.

“Yes!” the girls shouted at the top of their lungs. (The other Class 3 sections participated at other times).

After assigning partners and reminding everyone what a respectful partnership looks like (“Listen to each other and collaborate”), Ms. Orbach explained the rules of the game. To advance, the girls had to answer questions about multiplication and division and tackle other hurdles along the way.

“You may begin!” said their teacher.

With those words, Room 48 burst into action. At the front of the classroom, the students picked up a sheet of paper detailing Obstacle 1, which instructed them to build a fire to get warm. This “fire” was created by assembling a puzzle of a campfire. On each puzzle piece, there was a multiplication problem (such as 8 x 7 or 11 x 5). Those answers needed to be recorded in the right order on a blue half-sheet.

The teams who aced the first obstacle moved on to Obstacle 2, which charged them with finding shelter. This task was accomplished by counting the number of dots in various configurations and then writing the corresponding number word (for example, twenty-four) on another half-sheet. Only when all number words had been accurately written down and checked by their teacher did the students find out where they would spend the night.

“I’m looking for perseverance,” Ms. Orbach told her students. She offered guidance and support as they navigated the dizzying array of papers, cards, puzzle pieces and pencils spread around the classroom.

Sprinkled throughout the multi-day project were mini challenges such as defining terms like multiplication and division and labeling the parts of a number sentence. One task, extending beyond math, asked the girls to make a word from an envelope of letters. The first pair to unscramble their word did so in a quiet corner to avoid being seen by their classmates.

Progressing at their own pace, the teams approached the challenges with determination, strategic thinking and no shortage of energy. Each student demonstrated both impressive math skills but and the ability to work with others to reach the ultimate goal of leaving the woods.

“Let’s try again,” one student said to her partner when the numbers didn’t add up. The partner nodded in agreement.

“Oh, that was easy,” said another, smiling at her teammate.

“We got it right!” exclaimed a third as the two girls jumped up and down.

The escape expedition continued the following day when the students applied their math skills to complete more complex challenges, including crossing the river, reaching a place to sleep, searching for food and returning home at last. At the end, Ms. Orbach asked her students to share what they learned.

Without a doubt, our Class 3 mathematicians excelled at this rigorous and inventive exercise that transformed math into an unforgettable adventure.