You may be looking for ways to get to know your students quickly at the start of the school year. You might be getting ready for parents’ night or working to spark kids’ interest in numbers. For these reasons, and to infuse a sense of personal immediacy into your curriculum at any point in the year, Math About Me activities can be highly useful.
In the Math About Me approach, students use math to describe and define themselves, and they come to see how math is a part of their everyday lives.
Read on to explore six of our favorite Math About Me classroom activities.
On a single page, each student can create a short autobiography. Leave a space for a small self-portrait and then have them fill in each of these blanks:
- Math about: _________
- I am _________ years old.
- I have _________ pets.
- I have _________ letters in my name.
- I’ve lost _________ teeth.
- My favorite number is _________.
- I have _________ people in my family.
- I have _________ sisters.
- I have _________ brothers.
- I speak _________ languages.
As students advance, the answers can get more involved:
- My house number is _________. That’s _________ hundreds, _________ tens, and _________ ones.
- My house number plus my zip code = _________.
- My dad’s age + my age = _________.
- My mom’s age – the number of kids in my family = _________.
- All of the digits in my phone number add up to _________.
- My birthday is _________. That’s the _________ day of the year.
Give Me a Minute
Have students work with partners, timing each other to see what they can accomplish in the 60 seconds that make up a minute:
- How many times can you bounce a ball and catch it?
- Starting at one and counting by ones, how high can you count?
- How many jumping jacks can you do?
- How many times can you say the alphabet?
- How many times can you write your name?
- Starting at one and writing numbers by ones, what number can you reach?
Poster of Important Numbers
Talk with your students about numbers that are important to them. Give an example from your own life: a six digit-number representing the month, day and year when someone you love was born, perhaps, or the number showing the age you were when something special happened in your life, and so on.
Every student will create a poster that has seven sections, including a center section for the student’s name. Each of the other six sections will show a different number that’s important to that student. Give your students time to create and decorate their posters, reminding them only to show the numbers, not the explanations for them.
As students volunteer to share their posters, their classmates will have the chance to guess the significance of each number, using yes/no questions to help find the answers. The presenting student will be able to share why those numbers are special.
The Numerical Dossier
While similar to the Math Autobiography, this activity is for students with more advanced academic skills.
- Of the books you own, what percent are non-fiction?
- What percentage of your family has brown eyes?
- What percentage of your day is dedicated to extra-curricular activities?
- How far, in miles, is your home from Paris, France? How far in kilometers?
- What is the circumference of your head in centimeters? In inches?
- How long is your foot in inches? In centimeters?
Figure Me Out
In a variation of the Poster of Important Numbers, students can reveal the significance of their numbers, but must present each number as an equation. For example:
- My age: 27 ÷ 3
- The year I was born: (251.5 x 2) x 4
- The number of people in my family: (24 ÷ 3) - (𝝥 - 1.14)
- The number of pets who live at my house: 1,117 - (200 x 5) - 105
Math en Masse
This interactive group project uses multiple stations and a few small supplies. You’ll need these items or similar ones:
- Unifix® Cubes
- Paper clips
- Gloves in a variety of sizes
What’s in a Name?
Direct students to connect Unifix Cubes, using one for each letter in their names. If there are enough cubes available, they can count letters in their first and last names. They compare and identify who has the longest and shortest names and investigate whether multiple people within the group have names with the same numbers of letters.
Gotta Hand It To You
Have each student hold one hand perpendicular to a table top, so that the pinky is resting on the table and the thumb faces the sky, with all fingers touching. From the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the palm, students can line up paper clips and count how many are needed for the length of their hand.
Extend the activity by questioning this measurement tool. Is it exact? Is there a way to improve it? Does the answer change if you face the paper clips horizontally instead of vertically?
How Many Feet in Your Feet?
Have students use lengths of yarn to measure their feet. They should measure the perimeter (wrapping around the entire foot exactly once), the width (measured straight across, not diagonally, at the widest part), and the length (straight up and down at the longest part).
They can compare and observe the multiple ways to measure one thing and investigate which measurement is the longest and which is the shortest. Extend the discussion by asking if these observations are true for all human feet. What about animal feet? What can we learn by knowing how long our feet are?
Size It Up
This is a chance for students to explore different sizes of gloves to discover which one would best fit their hands. Encourage them to predict whether a glove will fit by having them hold the glove next to their hand before trying it on. Does the same glove fit everyone’s hand best? Does the glove have to be the exact same size as a hand for it to fit comfortably, or should it be slightly bigger? What happens if the glove is too big for a hand?
Make your education count.
Learn to engage students of all ages in the University of Kansas Department of Curriculum and Teaching. Share your gifts with students with disabilities in our Department of Special Education. Keep motivation strong in instructional teams in our Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. We offer online master’s degrees, graduate certificates and licensure endorsement programs, and our admissions advisors are here to answer your questions. Get in touch with us today.
1 Retrieved on April 26, 2021 from aroundthekampfire.com/2012/09/math-about-me-some-goal-setting-fun.html
2 Retrieved on April 26, 2021 from teacherspayteachers.com
3 Retrieved on April 26, 2021 from betterlesson.com/lesson/482834/math-about-me
4 Retrieved on April 26, 2021 from ludwickmath.weebly.com/uploads/2/2/6/7/22673668/mathematical_me_info_sheet.pdf
5 Retrieved on April 26, 2021 from shutthedoorandteach.com/2013/09/figure-me-out-beginning-of-year-math.html
6 Retrieved on April 26, 2021 from kohlchildrensmuseum.org/activities/math-about-me/