What do you do when a prompt or provocation doesn’t take the learning anywhere new?

We are coming to the end of our current unit exploring 2D shape and space. There has been some powerful inquiry driven by the students through carefully chosen prompts and provocations. However, none of them have led us to digging deeper into the concept of area. I have recently introduced the class to WODB (Which One Doesn’t Belong) so checked out their twitter site for an image that I thought could lead the students to considering the ‘size’ of shapes.

Our benchmark for area is quite simple:

Compare the areas of regular and irregular shapes by informal means

  • measure the areas of common two-dimensional shapes using a square-centimetre grid overlay
  • measure the areas of irregular shapes using a square-centimetre grid overlay
  • compare two or more areas by informal means, eg using tiles or a square-centimetre grid overlay

This image seemed to fit perfectly – square centimetre grids, simple shapes of same and different areas etc. I shared the image with the students and invited them to justify why each one doesn’t belong. As always, they were bursting with ideas. But not one of them used the criteria of area – with only a couple getting close with references to ‘shape covers half the square’ and ‘has equal shapes’.IMG_0413

I am all for taking the lesson in the direction the students want to go but their justifications hadn’t really revealed any new understandings, wonderings or misconceptions. We wrapped the lesson up and I went back to the drawing board. I wanted the students to find their own way into ‘area’. My thinking was that maybe the students were struggling with the orientation of the shapes and couldn’t see how bits could fit together.

I prepared a sheet so they could cut up and have a play with the shapes. After 10 minutes I invited them to share any discoveries  – this led to further wonderings. And we were on track for some great inquiry!

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