Saturday, November 2, 2013

4.OA.3 "A New Coat for Anna" Technology Research Math Project

4.OA.3    Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers and having whole-number answers using the four operations, including problems in which remainders must be interpreted. Represent these problems using equations with a letter standing for the unknown quantity. Assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies including rounding. 

See our original movie of Anna's New Coat.

Thanks to the generosity of Tech4Learning, an educational software company, I was able to pilot their original Pixie software program in 2007. 

That year I taught 5th grade and was also involved as a technology coach at my school. While my own students were off track, I worked with a colleague's 3rd grade students for two weeks to help them create our math movie.  

Since I was familiar with the 3rd grade Open Court stories, I wanted to use "A New Coat for Anna" for a math investigation, using the Pixie draw program for the artwork.

The story of Anna takes place just after WWII in Eastern Europe. The stores are empty and few people have any money, so Mom needs to barter several items to get a new coat for her daughter, Anna. 

While reading the story, I wondered, "What would these items be worth on eBay today?"

In order to assist these 8-year old children with their research, I created a Word document of internet hotlinks. Then I brought them into the computer lab in order to help them determine the current day value of these antique items.

Some of the items Mom bartered were difficult to find exact matches for on eBay, so I found an expert jeweler to answer our questions.

The children were so engaged in the project, that they came back into the computer lab during recess, lunch, and after school. Fascinated by the project, Erick and Saul talked to their parents and had extra research time at home.

As the amounts of money grew larger and larger, the children were enthralled with the lesson!

They were certain they had won the lottery and their faces sparkled as we found similar items on eBay that matched the four items included in our search. 

Assumptions we made:

In the story, Mother barters Grandfather's gold pocket watch for bags of wool. That's expensive wool!! We decide that if Anna is 8-years old, Mom is about 32, and Grandfather is somewhere around 57 years old.

Therefore, Grandfather must have been born around 1888.

Here's how we determined that:  1945 - 57 = 1988. 

Louie told us that since the story took place in Eastern Europe, Grandfather's gold watch was probably a fine crafted Swiss watch. He also said that recently a Swiss gold pocket watch made by a famous watchmaker had sold for $2,000,000! The children were blown away! This was REAL math in the making!

It was also difficult to find a garnet necklace with a gold neck chain resembling the one our illustrator had drawn in the story. Since garnet is not a fancy gemstone, it is easier to find it fashioned in silver than in gold. We also discovered that garnet comes in different "grades" or qualities. Some cheaper grades of garnet are dyed, while others are natural. We found Grade C and Grade B, but remembered Louie's advice and decide that Mother must have had a natural blood red stone. Certainly this was Grade AAA!

Since this story takes place before modern day manufacturing, the gold garnet necklace was probably gemstone quality.  In fact, based on how the illustrator drew the picture, we were certain it was "AAA" quality grade.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to find this combination of jewelry on eBay. Still, the children learned a lot about the pricing of gemstones.   :)

Not only were they interested in the large amounts of money, now they wanted to reread the story for setting and scenery details to include in their computer drawings.

What Did It Cost 100 Years Ago?

As a child, I remember how pleased my father was when he finally made an annual salary of $10,000. He drooped out of high school in 1944 to join the air force, and later worked for IBM in 1952.

After I got married, Dad told me that his buying power in those earlier days was much greater than mine. He bought his first brand new house in Hawthorne, California, in 1947 for $7,000. I bought my first home in 1980 for $89.000. Later, my husband  and I bought a 50-year old home for $230,000. Now the children understand the meaning of inflation!

Older students can graph changes over time to the cost of common goods. 

Cost of common items years ago