Day dedicated to division at Perry-Lecompton Middle School
Fifth graders Shelby Hetherington, Conor Hendrickson, Spencer Archer, Domineq Kalinichenko and Kyleigh Leslie use duck manipulatives to solve a division problem while Karla Meyer looks on at Perry-Lecompton Middle School.
Story and photos by Carolyn Kaberline
There were games, snacks throughout the day and pizza for lunch, but there was also a lot of learning going on during Perry-Lecompton Middle School’s Division Day held on Friday, Oct. 15.
“I saw a video on Division Day at a training for Integrated Thematic Instruction in 1999,” said fifth grade teacher Pat Zimmerman. “I ordered the video and the book, and we tried it at Grantville. It seemed to help, so we changed the problems to fit our geographic area and the interests of the fifth graders.”
Explaining that division is often a hard math concept for students to master, Zimmerman said the main purpose of the day was “to teach the process of division in a fun way, so as to remove the fear of it from both students and the adult helpers.”
During the day parents and grandparents joined with the fifth grade teachers and paraprofessionals to help with the non-stop activities.
“We simply sent out a note saying we needed 12 to 15 adults to help and they responded,” Zimmerman said, adding that this allowed the three fifth grade classroom teachers—Zimmerman, Kitt Carroll, and Mary Levi-Mehl–to check on several groups and head off problems rather than having to lead a group and still deal with any problems that arose.
All involved agreed that the day moved quickly.
“The day began with a physical warm-up activity of blob tag that we renamed division tag,” Zimmerman explained. “Two or three students were designated ‘it,’ and they tried to tag others. Once they did, they linked arms and continued trying to catch others with only the person on the end allowed to tag someone. Periodically, we blew the whistle and told them to divide into twos or threes or fours and so on. This went on for about 10 or 15 minutes.”
From there students were divided into small groups to do an activity that showed patterns in math, then watched a skit on single digit division.
“I then showed them the steps they would go through all day in doing the division problems,” Zimmerman said. “They then proceed to a station to practice single digit divisors, then a second one. Then there’s another skit and direct instruction time followed with two more stations for practice.”
As the morning drew to a close, a lunch of pizza divided into tens. The afternoon activities included a story on remainders, more direct instruction and finally two more stations on division with remainders.
“Following recess, they were divided into either art or drama groups where they could use the concept of division in a more artistic fashion,” Zimmerman added. The art projects were placed on the wall of the commons by the end of the day, and the drama group performed skits for the entire grade.
Zimmerman also noted that while most of the supplies for the day came out of her classroom budget or her own pocket, the manipulatives used for problems during the day were paid for with a grant on action research she received several years ago. That research project studied the ways students used manipulatives.
In addition to the variety of activities and the pizza lunch, students were allowed to visit a snack table throughout the day with all snacks provided by the parents.
And what did students think of the day?
“It’s fun,” said Brenna Spurling. “The best part was probably working with the manipulatives. We don’t use them much, so it’s different.”
Corey Shackleford agreed saying that “I don’t like division, but the manipulatives make division easier.”
“We get to learn a lot of stuff about division,” said Cassody O’Connor. “We use hand jive to help us. There are different actions for each step,” she said as she repeated the “divide, multiply, subtract, bring down” directions for division. “Using the manipulatives is better too. They actually help you understand what to do. If you get stuck on a problem, it helps you figure it out.”
In looking back on the day, Zimmerman believes it was very successful. “It’s a busy day. It is a day that moves quickly, but we couldn’t do it without the help of our paras and the parents.”
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