Making Maths Meaningful

This week, we had the pleasure of being able to go whale watching. Well, actually, it wasn't so much of a pleasure for one member of our family who spent the whole time curled up at the back of the boat huddled over a sea sickness bag! But that's another story.

Making Maths Meaningful

Before we went, we decided to explore how long a humpback whale really is, which was our way of making maths meaningful.

As we didn't have any paths around our home long enough, we headed for the road. (Thankfully, we live at the end of a quiet court so the traffic is minimal.)

Armed with chalk and a measuring tape, we had a 'whale of a time' measuring whales!

I really liked this activity because it gave us all the opportunity to put the size of a whale in perspective. We were able to use maths in a meaningful way to actually measure the size of an animal we hoped to see the next day. We decided, because of our adventures with the tape and chalk, whales are really big!!!

The first step: estimate the size of a whale

Drawing a whale

To begin with, the boys were encouraged to draw how big they thought a whale would be. They weren't given any sizes but estimated the size according to their own thoughts and imaginations.

Comparing sizes of different objects to the size of a whale

The boys also drew pictures of different objects (e.g., hang glider, semi-truck, plane, car) next to the whale they'd drawn to compare sizes.

The second step: measure the length of a baby whale

Measuring the size of a baby whale

Next, we measured out the length of a baby whale (4.3 metres) with a measuring tape.

The third step: make comparisons to our own size

This involved lying alongside the measuring tape. It turns out that a baby whale is 4 times the size of a boy.

Comparing sizes

The fourth step: measure adult whales

Measuring the size of male and female whales

Next we measured out the length of a male whale (14 metres) and finally a female whale (16 metres).

That was a lot of measuring!

Problem solving in the sun

I love the problem solving that occurred when one of the participants decided it was too hot in the sun!

The fifth step: clean up

Cleaning up was as much fun as the activity itself when we brought out the hose and brooms to scrub off our chalk drawings. While I loved the boys' work, I'm not sure if the neighbours would have appreciated looking at it for days until the chalk disappeared.

What is your favourite whale-related activity? Feel free to leave a comment on this post or on our facebook page.

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Return to the Articles List for other children's learning activities or children's book reviews.

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