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NumberFix: Math/Writing Lesson based on the Scaredy Squirrel Series

A Writing Across the Curriculum Lesson from NumberFix
Math Topic: fractions and patterns Students Write: problems for other students

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Sea Life and
Beach Patterns

writing pattern-inspired problems for classmates

This writing across the curriculum lesson was written by NumberFix Coordinator, Holly Young, who designed it for first grade learners. Check out Holly's Making Mathematicians website.

This lesson was proposed to NumberFix using this template. If you have a math/mentor text lesson you'd like to have published, fill out the template and send it to Holly Young, our NumberFix Coordinator: We'll send you an NNWP Print Publication if we post your lesson here!

Lesson Overview & Objective:

Students get a chance to explore repeating and growth patterns by extending an existing pattern. In addition students practice fractions, either halves or thirds depending on their readiness level. Both activities require students to write their own problem. The lesson should be spread out over several days, taking approximately 2 hours to completely teach.

Essential Understandings for this Lesson:

  • I can draw the next shapes in a pattern.
  • I can divide a group into 2 equal groups. (I can find ½ of a number)

Writing skills to stress while teaching this lesson:

  • Idea Development (writing with a clear, central idea or theme in mind; putting researched ideas into one's own words)
  • Conventions spelling skills; punctuation skills; capitalization skills)

Materials List:

Setting the Stage:

Students should have had some practice extending and recognizing patterns.

In addition they should have some instruction into breaking groups into halves.

Teacher Instructions:

  • We read the I Can poster out loud as a class. I asked students what difficult words were in the two sentences. I chose to spend some time discussing the two key vocabulary words with the students (a print-out of the words is on page 5 of the worksheet document). I asked students to discuss in partners how to define the word pattern. When I asked for volunteers to give me their definition, I received a lot of examples (I did write two down – one with numbers, one with shapes), but I probed the students to describe a pattern with words. We finally decided on "Something that follows a rule or order and could repeat." I asked them if 1,2,3,4,5 was a pattern. They initially said, “No.” When I asked them to tell me what the next two numbers in the pattern were, they agreed that it was a pattern, so we added the idea that patterns can change but they still have to follow a rule. We then discussed the vocabulary word fraction. I did the same thing, where I allowed a few examples, but then I probed for a definition in words. We agreed upon cutting a group into equal parts.
  • Next, I showed the mentor text's cover to the students and asked them to predict what Scaredy would be afraid of at the beach with a partner. I asked them to come up with a good reason for their prediction. We shared out as a class.
  • I read Scaredy Squirrel at The Beach by Mélanie Watt. After we read the book, I passed out shells for students to try to see if they could hear the ocean. We talked about why you can hear the ocean when you put a shell to your ear.

  • I passed out the first page of the worksheet. The worksheet has 4 patterns at the top that I asked the students to see if they could work with a partner and draw the next three shapes in the pattern. I wanted the students to try to look at number 4 as a growth pattern, so if they just repeated the pattern over as their next three terms, I told them that that was a reasonable answer; however, it wasn’t the one that I was looking for when I designed the pattern (I wanted 3 lobsters, then 3 coconuts, etc). It took students a lot of discussion with each other to figure out the pattern and share with one another.

  • I asked students to pick one of the four patterns as a group of four and see if they could extend the pattern to the 10th shape and the 20th shape. They were asked to write their process down on the worksheet. As a class, we discussed each pattern and I asked the groups to tell me how they found the 10th and 20th term and we checked it on the board. I focused on the strategies students used to find the terms.

If you look at the student work, you can see that some students choose an abbreviation for their pattern and wrote out each term while counting aloud or by labelling each term with a number. One student tackled pattern number four by noticing that the pattern continued with 3 coconuts, 3 jellyfish, then four of each, so he was writing 3+3+4 etc until he reached 20 (using some guess and check) and saw that he was at lobster. Some students used the number line on their desk, and one student used the numbergrid on his desk. He pointed to each number while he recited the pattern on the paper, lobster, coconut, lobster, etc. He came up to the front and showed the class his technique.

Students were asked to go back and use one of the methods that they saw to check if their 10th and 20th term were correct.

  • Students were then asked to make up their own pattern, then have their shoulder partner draw the next 3 terms in the pattern. One student actually designed a diminishing pattern and stumped his partner for a few minutes! We discussed the fact that the rule on patterns can be to make the next term smaller.

  • Next, I passed out pages 2-4 of the worksheet to the students. Each worksheet is a different level depending on the students readiness.
    • Page 2 is at standard (for the lowest level student) with all the problems having a group cut in half and only one set of shapes not in a straight line.
    • Page 3 is for students at grade level. It has mostly half problems with only one set of shapes in a straight line; it includes a problem with thirds.
    • Page 4 is for the more advanced student. It includes thirds and a group to cut in half that isn’t an even number.
  • I modeled a few different techniques on how to attack these types of problems (teacher page is page 5 of the worksheet). I had red/yellow chips out on the desks for students to use a concrete manipulative to sort into 2 or 3 equal groups depending upon the problem. Another way shown was circling groups or pairs into separate groups, and the final way was to number each item in the group 1, 2, 1, 2, etc. I modeled how to fill in the statement for each problem. “There were 4 lobsters in all. Two is ½ of four.”
  • Students were then asked to design their own problem and fill out the statement describing it. I asked them to read their problem and statement to a shoulder partner upon completion. If you click on the samples below, you can see them in larger form.
Low worksheet sample
Medium worksheet sample
High worksheet sample
  • We finished the class by reviewing the "I Can..." poster and discussing what we knew about patterns and fractions.


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