The Amazing Iditarod Race

This past Monday was a chilly one in Chicago!  The temperature at the opening of school was -7*, and many schools in the Chicagoland area were closed.  However, the weather made for a perfect setting for my Iditarod math lesson.

This is a fun lesson that can be adapted for any grade.  In the lesson students have been selected to travel across Alaska in the “Amazing Iditarod Race” as math mushers.  In order to move from checkpoint to checkpoint the math mushers must complete math problems, along with a given task that is supposed to warm them up as they travel along the chilly trail.  Tasks include jumping jacks, running in place, and a victory dance once they reach Nome.  This lesson is a lot of fun, as it gets the kids moving while doing math.

I have created two separate documents for teachers tothe-amazing-iditarod-race-division-for-blog-page-004 use.  The first one is for 4th or 5th grade teachers who are teaching long division.  This is the topic my students were working on, and I have attached the PDF we used below.  The second document is a Word Document which is a template of the handout.  Teachers can then fill in the math topic they are working on, so it can be adapted to any grade and topic.

The Amazing Iditarod Race: Long Division

The Amazing Iditarod Race Template: Word Document

The Amazing Iditarod Race Lesson Plan

Other Iditarod Teacher News:

I am Skyping with classrooms across the country!  I have enjoyed taking my students on virtual field trips over the years, so I’m excited to work with you and your students to bring the Iditarod to life in your classroom.  To find more information and sign up for a time click here– I’ve added a few new dates and times!  I will also be continuing the Iditarod Classroom Club.  To join in the fun, click here: Iditarod Classroom Club.

Join us in Chicago for a conference on  January 21!  Speakers include Iditarod finisher Charley Bejna (via Skype), local musher Pat Moon, and 2017 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail (along with a few other Teachers on the Trail).  Click here for more information.

You can also join us in ALASKA!  The 2017 Winter Conference will be held February 28-March 3 in Anchorage, AK with the theme of “Making Sense of Problems and Persevering Through Them”.  Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from strong educators, and from the mushers themselves.  For more information on this conference click here.

Celsius vs. Fahrenheit

"To travel is to take a journey into yourself." - Danny Kaye

“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.” – Danny Kaye

Ken Anderson getting hot water from the cooker in Takotna.

Ken Anderson getting hot water from the cooker in Takotna.

Tomorrow will be a scorching 35° outside! How often have you heard a meteorologist utter these words? 35° can sound scorching if you’re from Norway or Sweden, but here in the United States it is actually quite chilly. 35° Celsius is approximately 95° Fahrenheit. The United States still measures temperature in Fahrenheit while many other countries are using Celsius. If your students completed this week’s Iditarod Trivia Tuesday, they found out there are 13 mushers from countries other than the United States signed up for the 2015 Iditarod. Converting temperatures is a quick and easy lesson aligned with the Common Core.

To grab your students’ attention right off the bat, reveal tomorrow’s temperature to them in Celsius. This can easily transition into a discussion about how the U.S. uses Fahrenheit while many other countries use Celsius.  This can lead directly to students discovering which countries the 13 mushers from out of the USA call home.

In this lesson students will identify Iditarod mushers that are not from the United States while making real world temperature conversions such as, boiling water, freezing water, body temperature, etc. Students will also develop a week-long weather forecast for their hometown and a village on the Iditarod trail. The weather forecast must be accurate according to the weather app the students choose. While developing the forecast they must also convert the Fahrenheit temperature to Celsius.

Gas stove heating water for all mushers in Skwentna.

Gas stove heating water for all mushers in Skwentna.

The sixth grade students at Camanche Middle School, where I teach, report the weather daily at the beginning of the day. I am going to challenge them to start reporting the temperature in Celsius. This will require reporters to convert the temperatures and encourage the listeners to convert the temperatures. Good luck converting temperatures.

Temperature Conversion Lesson Plan

Temperature Conversion Worksheet

Scaling Up the Trail

Several years ago, we realized that we were never getting to the Geometry Unit that inevitably occurred at the end of the math book and therefore at the end of the school year. We decided to break up the unit into pieces and teach it periodically throughout the year. Inspired by the book Mathematical Art-O- Facts: Activities to Introduce, Reinforce, or Assess Geometry & Measurement Skills by Catherine Johns Kuhns, we decided to accomplish this by using art to create monthly geometry projects. This allowed us to teach the geometry skills throughout the year in a hands-on way that require the students to use the new geometry skills immediately to create something.

When I returned to my school from my Alaskan adventure, the boys were returning from Spring Break and the time was prime for a hands-on Iditarod related geometry project. We spent a week enlarging Jon Van Zyle’s print A Nod to the Past to six times the original size! We had a wonderful discussion about the piece of art, the feelings it evoked, and the Iditarod memorabilia it featured. We worked as a full class to compete the project. While each boy was responsible for completing one square of the enlargement, the nature of the project was such that they naturally checked in with each other to see if their measurements were matching up. There were wonderful discussions and coaching between boys about how they were solving the problems. When it came time to color their masterpiece, leaders naturally rose to the top as they discussed shading and combining colors to achieve the desired results. It was nice to see the artistic boys have a chance to be the leaders. The finished product in the hallway is a show stopper and visitors often stop by to admire it and ask questions! Attached is a lesson plan to explain how we completed the project.

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Scaling Up the Trail Lesson Plan

As the Trail Turns

Meanwhile Back at School:

Rule Number 6 deals with timing on the race:

Rule 6 — Race Timing: For elapsed time purposes, the race will be a common start event. Each

musher’s total elapsed time will be calculated using 2:00 p.m., Sunday March 2, 2014, as the starting

time. Teams will leave the start and the re-start in intervals of not less than two minutes, and the time

differential will be adjusted during the twenty-four (24) hour mandatory layover. No time will be kept

at the Saturday event.

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And, a lot of the data generated by the race deals with time – time on the trail, time in the checkpoints, required resting times, starting times, differential times, and so on.

So we are all about time, military time, and elapsed time these days in math class.  We started the week by reviewing telling time.  We talked a lot about how accurate the checkers have to be in recording the in and out times of the mushers because every minute counts!  I gave each student a sticky note to keep on their desk and periodically throughout the day I rang a bell and yelled out things like “Monica Zappa just checked in to Unakaleet.  What time is it?”  “Ken Anderson is pulling out of Safety.  What time is it?”  “Dallas Seavey just arrived at Shaktoolik.  What time is it? He wants to stay ten minutes.  What time is he leaving?”  The students recorded the answers on their sticky notes and later in the day we checked their results.

Something you will need to teach your students about time in order for them analyze the timing information they find on the Iditarod paperwork is military time.  The time is reported on the official reports in military time to avoid confusion.  Here is an assignment you can use for converting military time to conventional time:  Time on the Trail CW

We also delve into calculating elapsed time, which traditionally is a challenge for some of my third graders.  Here is an assignment for calculating elapsed time:  Passing Time at the Checkpoints Classwork

To wrap everything up, I challenge the students to calculate their musher’s average time on the trail for the first seven legs of the race. This requires them to convert military time to standard time, calculate the elapsed time, and find the average.  We compare our results and discuss whether this information is helpful in predicating the outcome of the race.  After the first seven legs it is really tough to tell what is going to happen!  As the Trail Turns Lesson Plan

And finally, here is a homework assignment to review elapsed time.  Ken Anderson Homework

What’s an Average Leg?

2013-03-03 20.38.15-1Meanwhile Back at School:  This week we have been exploring mean, median, mode, and range.  This skill have been removed from the elementary curriculum by the Common Core, but for me, it’s still a great way to review the basic operations and it’s pretty essential to understand some of the data that comes out of the Iditarod.

So, this week we have been analyzing data galore.  We have calculated the mean, median, mode, and range of the overall winnings of some of the top mushers, ages of the mushers, and numbers of Iditarods they have run.

Attached you will find our culminating activity for this section of the unit. The students will determine what an “average” leg on the Iditarod is.  Half of the class will find the average leg of the Northern Route, half will find the average leg on the Southern Route, and then they will compare their findings.  They will then use this information to determine which route they would rather run on.  My students are usually spit on this decision, but their reasoning is always fascinating to hear!

What’s An Average Leg Lesson Plan

Game Day!

Meanwhile Back at School:

We have been working really hard in math these days, so it’s time for a little fun challenge!

Here are some Paw Print Sudoku puzzles for you to share with your kids! Depending on their level, you may want to draw the mini-grid lines in or have them draw them in prior to trying to solve the problems. Enjoy!

Paw Print Sudoku 1

Paw Print Sudoku 2

Paw Print Sudoku bonus

Money, Money, Money!

Rule Number 11 deals with the race purse:

Rule 11 — Purse: A purse of $650,000 will be shared among those placing in the top thirty

(30). Every effort will be made to supplement this baseline purse. In addition, beginning with 31st

 place, $1,049.00 will be paid to each remaining finisher.

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But of course the race purse isn’t the only money involved.  Before the racers can even hope to get to the finish line to collect a part of the purse they will have spent thousands of dollars in preparation which provides students with lots of opportunities to practice their money skills.

We always begin with a review of counting money, but for us, our new learning is making change. Here is a classwork assignment Starting Line Snacks and homework sheet Iditarod Shop page 1  Iditarod Shop page 2 to review those skills.

Our big project with this skill is shopping for supplies for the race.  This project takes us at least four days to complete. It’s based off an assignment entitled Musher Mall Math that was originally published in Iditarod Activities for the Classroom.  I have edited, chunked, and streamlined the project for my third graders:  Supplied for Success and Survival