*This lesson coincides with break time from Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech.
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Lesson created by Stacie Brady
Grade level range: Any, but created with 5th grade in mind
Length of time to teach lesson: 8 minutes
Overview of lesson: Students will choose their favorite number and examine its qualities. They will brainstorm with a group of people who have the same favorite number (any number 12 or less) to determine the reasons it’s a great number and the uses for it. They will write down their ideas about the number and present their best reasons to the rest of the class.
Objectives (Learning targets) of this lesson: To make connections between something that generally is perceived as a simple symbol with a simple value and connect it to other ideas and concepts and experience…to think outside the box. Students in fifth grade may only think about a number as something confined to math to be used and manipulated, but this will help them look for deeper meaning and purpose.
Resources/supplies/handouts needed to teach this lesson: Paper and pen, handout note-taker entitled “What is Your Favorite Number”, rubric.
Teaching instructions for the lesson:
1. Introduce the concept of “My Favorite Number: 12” from page 130 of A Whack on the Side of the Head. Read the example of choosing the number 12 as your favorite number, or read the following shortened version: “My favorite number is 12. I have a lot of reasons for this. It’s so useful for dividing because it has so many factors: 2, 3, 4, and 6. But it’s also a huge part of the human experience. From the moment the sun reaches its highest point on the meridian (noon on the summer solstice) until it does again one year later, the moon waxes and wanes a total of twelve times! This pattern must have had cosmic significance to early humans grasping for meaning. It’s also found in life, nature, religion, mathematics, technology, and culture in so many interesting and provocative ways. For instance, there are 12 hours on the clock. There were 12 disciples in the Bible, and a perfect game of bowling requires 12 consecutive strikes.”
2. Pass out the note-taker.
3. Students choose one favorite number that is 12 or below. Independently and silently for about 5 minutes, they are to write down as many ideas as they can.
4. Then, they are to find the others in the class who have the same number and brainstorm together different connections between the number and seemingly unrelated ideas, writing down all their ideas.
5. Share the ideas with the entire class as a group.
Special notes from the creator of this lesson:
1. You need the created note-taker with the following (see separate handout), or you can display the list below for all the whole class and give them blank paper.
Concepts from which to draw your ideas:
2. Optional extension: turn this into a research activity in which the students go online and search for more connections.
Assessment: While the student is working on his/her list independently, observe his/her written answers and score as much of this rubric as you can. Then when they are working together, listen and observe the student’s conversation to score the rest of this rubric.