Caption: Grade 5 students at Greenbrier Public take different approach to math lesson.
Intrigue is the order of the day in Catherine Wiebe’s grade 5 math class at Greenbrier Public School in Brantford.
Ms Wiebe’s students have just wrapped up an intensive study of the Mathematical Mysteries of Detective Algeb Ra, which had them honing their skills as mathematical detectives and even training younger students in their crime-solving methods, all in the hopes of finding evidence to solve the mystery of the missing numbers—numbers that have been cruelly ripped from their equations, only to be replaced with a mysterious X.
Students began the unit by discussing the parallels between mathematicians and detectives, emphasizing the need to provide evidence for one’s assertions both when solving for X and solving a case. Students then honed their detective skills and packed their “detective toolboxes” with as many mathematical concepts and problem-solving ideas as possible—from the commutative and transitive properties, to calculators, manipulatives, and class-created algorithms such as “Related Operation Knowledge” (used to connect adding/subtracting and multiplying/dividing) and “Red Herring” (used to isolate X when solving more complex equations).
By completing various tasks and providing evidence for their case files, students worked their way up from the rank of “Constable” (and its accompanying colourful certificate) to “Detective” (including custom photo detective badge), Inspector, Chief Inspector, and beyond (as of this writing, several keen detectives in the class are still pressuring Ms Wiebe to continue adding more ranks to satisfy their seemingly insatiable thirst for greater algebraic knowledge).
Once they reached the rank of “Detective” (which, coincidentally, involved demonstrating mastery of all grade-level curriculum expectations), students split into small groups for their final mission and researched grade-level expectations for younger classes, creating a series of three-part math lessons to share with the “Junior Detectives” in grades one through four. Students planned and delivered these lessons, soliciting feedback from both teachers and students throughout the process in order to ensure that they were effectively able to transmit both their enthusiasm and their understanding to the younger classes.
Although the mysterious criminal was never, in the end, apprehended, he or she must certainly now be living in fear of Greenbrier’s twenty-five detective protogés of Algeb Ra, and their unstoppable ability to solve for X—with the evidence to prove it!