Making Mathematics Cool: Creating Paper Thermometers as a Fun, Hands-On Activity

Hello fellow educators! Today, I am thrilled to share an exciting mathematics activity that not only nurtures the fundamental mathematical skills of your students but also enables them to experience the application of these skills in their daily life. This activity, aptly titled ‘Making a Thermometer,’ engages the students in creating their own paper thermometers. By doing so, they simultaneously learn about temperature measurement, number representation, and comparison, all while indulging in some crafty fun!

This hands-on learning exercise can cater to a wide range of learners, from elementary school students just starting to grasp basic number concepts to middle schoolers who might need an engaging way to reinforce their understanding. With a bit of creativity and a dash of pedagogical intent, this activity can be adapted to accommodate different learning needs, and I’ll delve into some of those modifications a bit later.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into the details of this wonderful math activity!

Activity Overview

In this activity, students will be creating their own paper thermometers, using white paper and red crayons. They will mark the numbers on their paper thermometer similar to a real one, and color up to the correct level to represent the real temperature. Once finished, these handmade thermometers will be arranged on the classroom wall in a display from the lowest to the highest temperatures. This part of the activity provides an engaging way for students to comprehend number order, comparison, and sequence.

Materials Required

For this activity, you’ll need the following:

  • White Paper
  • Rulers
  • Red Crayons or Markers
  • Pencils
  • Real-life Thermometer for reference
  • Wall Space for Display

Gameplay Instructions

  1. Step One: Crafting the Thermometer – Hand out white papers to all students, and ask them to draw a thermometer using a pencil and ruler. Encourage them to make the thermometer as realistic as possible, marking the numbers the same as they would see on a real-life thermometer.
  2. Step Two: Temperature Recording – After drawing their thermometers, students should check the real temperature for the day using a real-life thermometer or a trusted online weather source. They then color the paper thermometer up to the proper level using their red crayons, to represent the current temperature accurately.
  3. Step Three: Display – Finally, organize the students’ thermometers in a wall display, arranging them from the lowest to the highest temperatures. This visual representation will not only make a delightful sight but also be a great learning resource for the students to understand the order of numbers and comparative reasoning.

Accommodations and Modifications

Depending upon the abilities and requirements of your students, you can make several accommodations and modifications to ensure that every learner feels included and engaged.

  1. Supporting Students with Visual Impairments: To assist students with visual impairments, consider providing tactile materials such as raised line paper or tactile thermometers. Additionally, you can pair these students with classmates who can help them throughout the activity.
  2. Accommodating English Language Learners: For students who are still learning English, consider offering multilingual resources, visual aids, or real-life thermometers with multiple languages.
  3. Engaging Advanced Learners: To challenge students who grasp concepts quickly, consider including negative temperatures, or introduce the concept of Fahrenheit and Celsius, allowing them to create dual-scale thermometers.
  4. Helping Students with Learning Difficulties: Provide simplified instructions, extra time, and possibly an extra set of materials for practice. Demonstrate the steps one at a time and ensure they understand before moving on.

Examples/Game Play Scenarios

Let’s consider a game play scenario to provide a better understanding of how this activity would unfold in a classroom setting.

Ms. Baker, a 4th-grade teacher, initiates the ‘Making a Thermometer’ activity. She hands out the white paper, rulers, and red crayons. She guides the students to draw their thermometers, assisting those who find it challenging. Once all the students have their thermometers ready, she asks them to check the day’s temperature from a reliable source, and color their paper thermometers accordingly.

Post coloring, Ms. Baker asks the students to display their thermometers on the wall. She guides them in arranging the thermometers in ascending order of the temperatures. In the process, she discusses the concept of number order and comparative reasoning.

She then challenges the students to guess what would happen if the temperature were to increase or decrease the next day. How would they represent it on their thermometers? The students engage in a lively discussion, applying their knowledge to predict future scenarios. They are eager to track the temperature over the next few days and see if their predictions come true.

Make a Thermometer

This hands-on activity is an excellent way to encourage experiential learning. It combines the students’ creativity, application of mathematical concepts, and their understanding of real-world phenomena, making it a well-rounded educational experience. It is activities like these that embody the essence of a holistic math education, instilling in students a love for the subject that extends beyond the confines of the classroom.

Alignment with Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

This activity aligns with several standards in the Common Core, particularly:

  1. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.NBT.B.3 – Compare two two-digit numbers based on meanings of the tens and ones digits, recording the results of comparisons with the symbols >, =, and <.
  2. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.MD.A.1 – Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes.
  3. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.MD.A.2 – Measure the length of an object twice, using length units of different lengths for the two measurements; describe how the two measurements relate to the size of the unit chosen.
  4. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.A.2 – Measure and estimate liquid volumes and masses of objects using standard units of grams (g), kilograms (kg), and liters (l).
  5. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.MD.A.2 – Use the four operations to solve word problems involving distances, intervals of time, liquid volumes, masses of objects, and money, including problems involving simple fractions or decimals, and problems that require expressing measurements given in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit.

It’s wonderful to see how a simple activity like ‘Making a Thermometer’ can be so versatile and adaptable, reaching across grade levels and aligning with several core standards. Happy teaching!

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