Mapping A Way to Decimal Understanding

  • Mapping A Way to Decimal Understanding

    Paula Denton
    Using Cuisenaire Rods, metric measurement, and mapping, students worked collaboratively to calculate, keep records, build, and problem solve with use of decimal fractions as a key element.
    Children love to make things, use tools, and discover new ideas that make good sense to them. On the other hand, too many children do not love or know how to make sense of decimals (Glasgow et al. 2000; Martinie and Bay-Williams 2003). For many years, I have used a measuring and mapping project with fourth and fifth graders to combine activities that children love to do with the development of a strong initial understanding of decimal fractions. In this two-step project, students work with Cuisenaire® Rods to create hand-made metric measuring tapes, and then use the tapes and rods to construct a scale map of their classroom. Number lines, in the form of metric measuring tapes, are an important model for supporting student understanding of fractions and decimals (Fosnot and Dolk 2002; Martinie and Bay-Williams 2003; Shaughnessy 2011). Moreover, the purposeful use of metric measurement to create an accurate scale map provides a meaningful context that supports children’s development of deep understanding of decimal concepts and notation (Irwin 2001; Sousa 2008).
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