Thanksgiving Turkeys Meet Real World Math

Woodland Team Transforms Thanksgiving Turkeys into Real World Math
Posted on 11/22/2019
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Turkeys + Decimals = Real World Learning Some fifth-graders at Woodland Elementary have made it easier for local shoppers to calculate just how much turkey they need to buy for Thanksgiving this year. And they did it all by adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing decimals. 

It’s a little bit of project-based learning, real world learning and personalized learning all rolled into one lesson that Woodland teachers Christina Butler and Jakeb Knight dreamt up this year for the 130-plus math students they share. The final products live on in the storefront of a longtime local favorite, Steve’s Meats & Deli off Cincinnati-Dayton Road. 

“The extra time it took to get everything up and running was worth it in the end,” Butler said. ”The kids absolutely loved it and even realized the importance of math in the real world. That’s what you want.”  

“For real world learning to work, you have to make that connection that what they are doing is going to help their community,” Knight added. “You really have to have that buy-in and authenticity for it to work.” 

More often than not, Butler and Knight open up the retractable wall separating their classrooms and team teach their math lessons. It’s one strategy that allows them to personalize, or individualize, their interactions with their students. In the interest of real world learning, the teaching duo invited 20-year business owner Steve Overberg into their class to offer up a challenge to their students. 

In addition to sharing some behind-the-scenes details about running a deli and some little-known trivia about turkeys, Overberg tasked his young audience with creating some visual that he could display in his store to help his customers calculate how much turkey they need to buy, based on the size and makeup of their Thanksgiving guest list. 

Students went straight to work on “Operation Thanksgiving,” not only performing decimal operations along the way, but grasping all the other considerations for keeping their “customer” happy and giving him a final product that would fit his needs.

“I was excited that my work got to be put up in a shop where thousands of people could see it instead of my teacher just hanging it up in my classroom or the hallway,” said Woodland fifth-grader Peyton Wadsworth. Another student in her group, Emma Wilkerson, added, “I guess it was a real life way to use math. I guess I didn’t even think about it.”

Project-based learning (PBL) is one approach Lakota is emphasizing with teachers across the district as part of its quest to personalize the learning experience of every single child. PBL facilitates the most important piece of personalized learning: student ownership and choice in how they learn a subject matter or demonstrate mastery. 

“I liked that it gave us the freedom to be really creative and that we were able to help with a real issue,” said another fifth-grader Emma Werner. “Not a lot of fifth-graders get that opportunity,” added Kaitlyn Wheatley.

Butler and Knight have become well-practiced in other forms of personalized learning that promote self-paced and student-directed learning, including use of the flexible playlist. Nearly every unit is marked by three different “playlists” of options, each one customized to a different skill level. They all give students choices like video, online work, paper and pencil or games through which they can learn the concept. 

They have also experimented with the flipped classroom, a model that stands in stark contrast to the traditional lecture style. Students learn a concept through a videos lessons recorded by the teacher, giving students the ability to set their own pace and teachers the flexibility to work more one-on-one with students who are at all different levels. 

“Over and over again, we’ve seen that when they have more choice, they are more willing to put the work in,” Butler said.