How Many Woodchips Should a 4th Grader Order if a 4th Grader Could Order Woodchips?

How do you make learning geometry skills, specifically calculating area, perimeter and volume fun and “real”?

This project from a few years ago is an example of how geometry can become “real” and students can learn and help our community all at the same time.

How do you make learning geometry skills, specifically calculating area, perimeter and volume fun and “real”? First you learn and practice those skills on paper and then your (amazing) teacher, Kak, tells you she has a project in mind–new woodchips for the playground.

First, 4th grade math students used adding and multiplying skills to determine the overall area of the playground. Then they discussed volume and imagined what the playground would look like at various depths.

They talked to facilities to find out who we usually buy the woodchips from every summer. They looked at that woodchip company’s website and realized that the woodchips are sold in cubic yards.

Students sit together on a huge pile of wood chips.They went back to the area calculations and converted them from feet into yards.

Then they looked at the price list to try to determine how much we should order to add to the existing woodchips. A cubic yard cost around $56 but that didn’t help them when they knew they only wanted about 5-6 inches of additional depth.

They talked to facilities again to present their findings and look at ordering history to help determine the size of their order. Facilities placed their order and the 4th graders prepared the playground base by raking out high spots and leveling it overall.

On Tuesday in the last week of school 9 cubic yards of woodchips arrived on the side of the playground!

Students eagerly grabbed their tools: wheelbarrow, rakes, buckets, shovel, sleds and yes, a pitchfork!

They worked hard for about 40 minutes a day over the course of three days. On Thursday morning, with the help of 5 volunteer 5th graders, they leveled the pile. Shane from Facilities stopped into the Bayou and the students told him they were finished.

They did some quick math and realized that their service and math project helped save the school a good amount of time, money, and effort that would have been spent getting woodchips for the playground this summer.

Thank you 4th graders (and volunteer 5th graders) for your curiosity, persistence, positive attitudes, ever growing math skills, team work, dedication to community, energy and hard work. You did a great job on this math/service project.

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