This unit plan focuses on building a class community by helping students get to know each other through math lessons. Students will identify their similarities and differences by comparing their names, participating in daily class surveys, and sharing their morning commute routines with each other.
- Collect data
- Describe and compare pieces of data that result in each category
- Develop and use math vocabulary to compare data
- Develop the skills to analyze pieces of data
- Tag board, chart paper, or large sheet of graph paper
- Ruler or yardstick
- 2"–3" paper strips, one per student
- Round white labels with 3/4" diameter, at least one for each letter in students' names (for example, Alex needs four, Samantha needs eight)
- A book about names (I recommend Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes or My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits)
- Multilink cubes, at least one for each letter in students' names
- Prepare a large graph surface on the tag board, chart paper, or graph paper. Use the longer side of paper as the bottom so that you can fit up to ten vertical columns along the page. Draw vertical and horizontal columns on the page to create a graph.
- Title the graph "How Many Letters Are in Our Names?" Label the columns along the base of the graph as follows: 1 letter, 2 letters, 3 letters, four letters, 5 letters, etc. The columns need to be wide enough to accommodate the paper strips that will have the children's names on them.
- Write one student's name on each of the 2"–3" paper strips. These will be added to the graph.
- Prepare the removable round labels with the individual letters of each student's name written on them. I recommend keeping the labels on the sheet and writing the names across them, if possible.
Step 1: Read a name story aloud to the class.
Step 2: Tell students we are going to study the number of letters in our names.
Step 3: Ask students to count out multilink cubes for each letter in their names.
Step 4: Have students count their cubes. Tell students that the number of cubes represents the number of letters in their name.
Step 5: Have students walk around the room to see if they can find a friend with the same number of letters in their name.
Step 6: Before students sit down, ask them to grab the paper strip with their name on it.
Step 7: Tell students that we are going to put the information on a graph so that we can read and analyze the data. Show students the graph you prepared ahead of time.
Step 8: Call students up to the graph by the number of letters in their names. Have them tape their name strips to the graph in the correct column.
Step 9: Read and analyze the graph with students. Prompt students to compare the data with questions similar to the ones you ask about the daily survey results. Ask students whose name is the shortest, longest, etc.
Step 10: Save the name strips for another activity.
- Tally marks are used to count up by fives. Four vertical marks are used before a diagonal mark is used to cover the four vertical marks. The resulting configuration represents five. You can teach students this system and tally the results of each column in the name graph.
- Have students graph the number of letters or syllables in their last names.
- Invite another class who has done the same activity to come and create an even bigger graph with your class. All the more names to recognize and analyze!
Use this lesson as an opportunity to engage your students in conversation about their mathematical ideas and challenge their understanding of the relevant mathematical graph vocabulary. Observe their reasoning and their mathematical thinking. Ask them why they think what they do. Through these conversations, you will be able to assess their growth and understanding of the concepts.