A Fistful of Learning with 1st and 4th Grades

The 1st and 4th grade students gathered for a hands-on experience in mathematics using handfuls of cubes as learning tools.

Since students in the two grades have different-sized hands, the amount of anything they grab a handful of will always be different when compared. Seeing an opportunity for a cross-graded connection, 4th grade teacher Maureen Cuesta invited Bev “Greenie” Greenberg’s 1st grade students to her classroom so they could use math counting cubes to explore the questions of how much is a handful and how the capacity of one’s handfuls could be quantified and compared.

Older students welcomed their younger peers into the classroom, and each paired up with a 4th grade partner and provided a plastic tray for their work together. Teachers demonstrated the assignment by dropping one of their hands crane-style into a large tub of math counting cubes and grabbing as many cubes as possible before removing their crane-hand and emptying its contents onto one side of the plastic tray. Partners were asked to repeat the process, then the pairs worked together to count their cubes and see just how many more a 4th grade hand could grab than their 1st grade counterparts. Fourth graders used the data to create bar and line graphs.

The room was alive with the sounds of laughter and learning as students worked together grabbing, stacking and comparing. Older students helped their younger peers quantify the results of their work, and all enjoyed smiles and fun while reinforcing math skills and building community between grade levels. 

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.