Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Seashells for Algebra

Today's elementary science lesson was on bivalves and gastropods -- shells basically.  These types of lessons always take me back to when I was about five years old and my grandparents took my sister and me to Galveston beach.  My grandmother showed me how to wait for a wave to pull back into the ocean, and then find all the pretty colored shells the wave left behind.  Forty-five some odd years later, I am still fascinated by this type of thing.  I ran to one of my science bins and grabbed the box of shells.

I found a small conch shell, a clam shell, and a moon snail shell, as well as several gastropods and limpets--all of which were in the lesson.  We discussed the hinges, the gland that makes inside of the shell shiny, and pearls.
Then an algebra student interrupted our lovely science lesson with an algebraic word problem.  If sewer #1 has 9 fewer rats than sewer #2, and sewer #2 has 5 fewer rats than sewer #3, and the total number of rats is 56 in all three sewers,  then how many rats are in sewer #1?   This was a little confusing, but I had these shells on the table, you see.
So the shells I had retrieved for science were now shells for algebra.  If I have 3 fewer scallops than limpets, and 4 fewer limpets than gastropods, and my total number of shells is 16, how many scallops do I have?

She could easily see that "4 fewer limpets than gastropods" actually meant to add 4 to the number of gastropods, thus she was able to figure out the sewer rat problem after I had shown her a visual representation of the concept using the shells.  Two subjects, one manipulative.  It was a good day.