20 Lucky Huskies

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We love our kennel name!

The Iditarod Summer Camp for Teachers is a remarkable opportunity to meet mushers at the volunteer picnic as they sign the dotted line and enter the Last Great Race on Earth®.  

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Photo courtesy Iditarod

I had the pleasure of meeting rookie musher Mary Helwig that day.  I remember Mary casually mentioning to me that she had lost her home and belongings in the Sockeye fire that affected so many mushers last summer, and I could not believe her amazing attitude.  Her team and dog sled survived the wildfire.  To lose almost all you own, and yet still be dedicated to bringing your beloved dog team nearly 1,000 miles to the burled arch in Nome…was simply inspiring.  

In my last post about puppies, we learned about newborn huskies, made our own, and named each one, lovingly, using a Texas theme.  We followed a special and time-honored tradition within the musher community to name puppy litters.  Now it was time to create one kennel name to bring us all together as a class.  For help, I turned to Mary and I asked her how her kennel, “Bravo Kennel”, came about.  She was so gracious and created a video for all of us to see, answering our question while very busy in the middle of training.  We were surprised by her answer!

We loved meeting Bravo, Mary’s special sled dog, and learning that his attitude and hard work inspired her to name her kennel after him.  A vote was in order!  My students had many ideas for our kennel name, but we needed to find one that was personal for us and our journey this year.  A great way to narrow down votes in a classroom is to use Tap Roulette, a fun, game-formatted app that helps a group make decisions through the process of elimination.  We decided to use Poll Everywhere on the web to give everyone a chance to express their passionate view of what our kennel name should be.  I added every name choice from my class, created a QR code for my students to find my poll online easily, and then we voted together online.  

After our initial vote, I edited and narrowed down the choices to our top 4, and we voted again.  Poll Everywhere allows you to change your choices easily, without having students enter a new poll all over again.  The results of our vote were in real time:

Our new kennel and class name became “20 Lucky Huskies”, and we celebrated.  What a perfect designation for our amazing journey this year.  We certainly are fortunate to have this unique opportunity to share our learning with the world, and sometimes we feel just like huskies on a team… working hard together for a common goal.  It is perfect for us!  

Now, it was time for some math activities to bring the lesson all together.  I created a kennel fraction activity for my students based upon what we learned in my post about dog house design.  Students had to color and decorate a kennel following fraction rules.

In our whole group lesson, I created a kennel glyph.  Glyphs are a fun way to gather and create data using pictures.  First, I created a form with Iditarod-themed questions for my students to answer, and their responses told them how to color and create their individual husky dog house picture.  Put all together, we had one, big, kennel bulletin board that represented all of our answers from the glyph.  We then looked at our pictorial data, analyzed it, and created fractional representations from it on a chart.  We also challenged ourselves to reduce the fractions to their simplest form.

 

Below is video of Mary, taken by her father, as she took her team out for a 50 mile practice run over the Christmas holiday.

Fraction Dog House

Fraction Dog Yard Student Sheet

Fraction Dog Yard Glyph

Fraction Dog Yard Directions

Dog House Glyph Lesson Plan

Dog Yard Fraction Lesson Plan

 

 

Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype as a virtual field trip experience, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account first and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Remember, you must have a Skype account first, or you only be in my club for 24 hours as a guest!  Click the link below:

Iditarod Classroom Club

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Want to know more about Mary Helwig and other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams?  The name says it all.  The ULTIMATE INSIDER ultimate-school-300x300 gives a school access to everything!  All of the benefits of the INSIDER VIDEO combined with the ability to “Track the Pack” with the GPS INSIDER!  Access to all of the commercial-free video.  Spotlight up to 5 of your favorite mushers and receive email alerts when they enter and leave a checkpoint.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • GPS Tracker
  • Commercial-Free access to all video content
  • Highlight 5 Mushers with email alerts
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Get to know Mary Helwig with her Insider video – http://www.iditarod.com

How Does Your Puppy Grow?

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Meet our pups; future Iditarod champions!

Puppies are the future for an Iditarod kennel.  As the 2016 Iditarod draws near, we have been spending a great deal of time talking about husky dogs and learning all about them.  We fell in love with veteran musher Matt Failor’s puppies this year after his Insider interview when Iditarod veteran “Cool Cat” gave birth to her litter of adorable, squealing newborns.  We wanted to know more about Iditarod husky puppies and how they are raised to prepare to one day be Iditarod champions.  I reached out to Matt and he shared some personal video with us so we could learn more:

Matt gave us some interesting information about newborn puppies.  “They are born with their eyes shut (fused shut).  The eyes usually do not open until around 10-12 days.  This is one of the reason a dogs nose is sooooo much stronger than ours (humans), because they rely on it from day one, since they are blind.  The whining from the puppy will release a chemical in the mom’s brain, to begin the flow of milk.  The pups instinctually go for the belly to find food.  The RACE is on!  They will fight for position and latch on to her.  Truly fun to watch and educational.”

Of course, my students wanted puppies of their own, but since that was impossible, we made our own rice and sock version to learn some husky puppy math and start a dog diary about them.  Our source of inspiration was a wonderful lesson from 2007 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ Kim Slade.  I loved this activity, and since we wanted to learn more about husky puppies, I brought it back out of the Iditarod archives and updated it this year for my class.

Husky puppies are born weighing 12-16 ounces.  Since we are learning about measurement in math class, I decided to test my students and see how close they could make their husky rice puppies weigh 16 oz (1 pound) on a scale with estimation.  First, we measured out 1 ounce on a scale to see what it looked like, and feel it in our hands.  From there the challenge was to see if we could first estimate, then fill our sock with exactly 16 ounces with rice.  We chose a men’s sock we liked out of white, black, or gray, then used funnels to fill our sock.  Students went back and forth to the scale to measure them until they reached exactly 16 ounces.

Now for the fun part! We used little rubber bands to tie off the head, paws and tail.  Some students added a muzzle with an extra rubber band.  Then we added a black pom pom for the nose, felt ears, google eyes, and a little pink felt tongue.  Students could add extra felt for special markings for a personal touch.

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Time for a husky puppy name!

We fell in love with our puppies, and when we were all finished it was time to name our litter.  Mushers have a special tradition when naming a litter of puppies in their kennels.  We read a great Iditarod post about how this is done, and we talked about what our theme should be.  Can you guess?  From that theme, each student gave their puppy a unique name.  Read our husky puppy names below, and see if you can guess what it is:

Our theme is “Texas” of course!  Our puppy names were inspired by the Lone Star State: wildflowers, food, spices, places, and even NASA.  What would your theme be?  Kim’s original lesson plan had a puppy birth certificate, so we created our own.

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Puppy Birth Certificate Word

Puppy Birth Certificate PDF

How Does Your Puppy Grow? Lesson Plan

Matt’s puppies have grown up quickly in the last few months.  Matt shared with us how he starts to train and prepare his puppies for the Iditarod in the future.   In the video below he walks around his kennel with the 14 puppies from Cool Cat who are now 3 months old and weigh 15 to 20 pounds.  He explains how he starts walking with the puppies and mom when they are young, but then he walks them alone so they can bond with him.  The jingle of a bag of dog kibble keeps them running to him and not wandering off.  It is amazing to see them all stay close together and trust him. 

 

 

What is more fun to watch than Matt Failor’s puppies?  Matt Failor’s puppies in slow motion:

 

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We wish we could have had the real thing – but we learned a lot with our sock version!

Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Click the link below:

The Iditarod Classroom Club

Print

 

Want to know more about Matt Failor and other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams?  The name says it all.  The ULTIMATE INSIDER ultimate-school-300x300 gives a school access to everything!  All of the benefits of the INSIDER VIDEO combined with the ability to “Track the Pack” with the GPS INSIDER!  Access to all of the commercial-free video.  Spotlight up to 5 of your favorite mushers and receive email alerts when they enter and leave a checkpoint.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • GPS Tracker
  • Commercial-Free access to all video content
  • Highlight 5 Mushers with email alerts

 

Sled Shopping with Musher Kristin Pace

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The sled and mandatory gear for rookie Iditarod musher Kristin Pace

Reading the actual 2016 Iditarod rules is a fascinating learning experience for any classroom teacher, and it is a very important process to understand how the Last Great Race on Earth® is successful all the way from Anchorage to Nome.  

There are many interesting questions from students about the requirements for an Iditarod musher, especially the section about mandatory gear for the race.  We are far from the life of a musher here in Austin, so my students wanted to know more about making it to the starting line.

For help, I turned to 2016 Iditarod rookie musher Kristin Knight Pace from Hey Moose! Kennel in Healy, Alaska.  Kristin, a fellow Texan like me, was born and raised in Ft. Worth and moved to Alaska in 2009.  She fell in love with the beautiful, wild landscape of the north and is now a wilderness planner for Denali National Park.  She feels, “There’s no better way to see and experience the country than on the back of a dog sled.”  

I was curious to see what the mandatory gear for the Iditarod looks like and what kind of expenses mushers have in order to meet their requirements.  This looked like a great math lesson to me!  Kristin shared pictures with my class of some of her gear for the Iditarod, along with the costs of the individual pieces of equipment below: 

According to the Iditarod rules, a musher is required to have a harness for every dog on the team, and from the harnesses they are all connected together to the sled.  A system of cables, or lines, give the dogs freedom to run and move, but in sync, as a team.  All of the dogs with their lines work in tandem to keep them moving along the trail safely.  See the diagram below to understand how it all looks from above:

 

Kristin was kind enough to take some video of her Hey Moose! Kennel team preparing for the 2016 Iditarod.  She said, “This was taken about 4 miles from our training camp. We are on the Denali Highway heading east toward the Maclaren River.”  In the video, you can see the tow line, necklines, tuglines, and harnesses helping her stay in control and keep the team together, but with flexibility and comfort for the dogs.

 

Let’s go shopping!  With all of this great information and video, students can pretend to be mushers preparing for the 2016 Iditarod by going shopping for mandatory sled gear.  Using the Iditarod official rules, review the section about what is required on a sled and discuss why they are important. The health and safety of the dogs is always the top priority for race officials and the mushers.  Using the lesson plan and spreadsheet, students should estimate costs of the mandatory gear required and find a total amount due for a sled with 16 dogs.  The inspiration for this lesson came from 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™, Jen Reiter.  Her math lessons can be accessed on the Iditarod site in an extensive PDF booklet called, “Mathing Down the Trail”.

The 2016 official Iditarod rules state that a musher must have 12-16 dogs at the starting line.  For this lesson, we will pretend to start with the maximum number, 16.  Mushers will carry extra tow lines, necklines, and tuglines on their sleds, but we used the required amount for our math.  Have a conversation with your class about having extra supplies on your sled.  What would be the benefit?  Hint: the safety of the dogs is the most important factor in the Iditarod, and dogs can sometimes chew their lines!

Iditarod Official Rules 2016

Let’s Go Shopping Catalog

Let’s Go Shopping Spreadsheet

Sled Shopping Lesson Plan

Kristin, and her husband Andy, also took a few moments on the trail to stop and introduce their dog team to us!

 

The life of a musher is a fascinating one.  Do you want to know more about Kristin Pace and her life as a musher?  My students created questions to get to know her a little bit better.  Read her Q & A to find out more about Kristin and her rookie Iditarod musher journey:

All About Kristin Pace

 

Training changes throughout the seasons for a musher and sometimes requires moving to a more remote location in the north for the best snow and weather conditions for the dogs.  Kristin said this is, “a picture of our winter training camp at Alpine Creek Lodge in the middle of the Denali Highway. The highway is not maintained in the winter, so we are 65 miles down the trail from our trucks and about a 7-hour trip to town one-way.”

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Winter Training camp for Andy and Kristin Pace and the dogs

Kristin and Andy have a wonderful site and blog about their kennel.  Their writing is deeply personal and emotional.  Check it out below: (you are leaving a secure site)

http://www.heymoosekennel.com

Coming Attractions

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Join in a live Twitter chat with sled dogs!  Mushers will pretend to be their sled dogs as students send in questions through Twitter.  The sled dogs will answer in first person…live.

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Want to know more about Kristin Pace and the other 2016 Iditarod mushers and their teams?  The name says it all.  The ULTIMATE INSIDER ultimate-school-300x300 gets access to everything!  All of the benefits of the INSIDER VIDEO combined with the ability to “Track the Pack” with the GPS INSIDER!  Access to all of the commercial-free video.  Spotlight up to 5 of your favorite mushers and receive email alerts when they enter and leave a checkpoint.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • GPS Tracker
  • Commercial-Free access to all video content
  • Highlight 5 Mushers with email alerts

The 2016 Winter Conference for Educators is an amazing week for educators around the country to come together and learn best teaching practices surrounding the theme of the Iditarod.  Check out the Iditarod site for more information about this unique professional development opportunity.

 

Benny’s Flag

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Benny Benson’s original submission for the Alaska flag design competition. ASL-MS14-1, American Legion, Designs by School Children for Alaska’s Flag, Alaska State Library-Historical Collections. Photo courtesy Alaska State Library-Photo Collection

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The Lone Star Flag of Texas

In Texas, we love our symbols.  The famous “Lone Star” is a symbol that is easily recognizable by just about anyone, young and old.  In our state social studies standards in fourth grade, we dig a little deeper into the symbolism and start to really understand our history and what those symbols we see and know so well really mean to us as Texans.  I am sure every teacher in elementary schools across the United States do the same thing.  We try and bring history alive for our students and help them appreciate the sacrifices that so many have made in the past for us today.

Six flags have flown over Texas: Spain, France, Mexico, The Republic of Texas, The United States of America, and The Confederate States of America.  The lone star on the flag was created after the hard-fought independence from Mexico.  It represents pride and independence.  I think those traits apply to any state, and certainly the people of Alaska.

Our State Symbols

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I spent some time with my class this week investigating the wonderful history of symbolism of each state and comparing it to our own.  I can’t find a larger and more interesting contrast than comparing the great state of Alaska to that of the Lone Star State.  I use the straightforward and simple website State Symbols USA as an easy and fascinating guide into learning and understanding various state symbols.

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Screenshot courtesy of State Symbols USA

The site is easy to navigate, and my students were fascinated by the unique features and symbols that each state holds dear.  Did you know that the official snack of Texas is chips and salsa?  Did you know the official Texas flying mammal is the bat?  Did you know that the official Alaska state sport is dog mushing?  My students giggled and yelled out, “Of course it is!”  What I appreciate about the site is the interesting information students can read and research when they simply click on the state name or symbol title.  This is fantastic for state research reports and a great way to learn about basic, but sometimes quirky, official symbols and icons of your state.  The bat, of course, is the only flying mammal in the world!

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Screenshot courtesy of State Symbols USA

The website also has a place for students to submit stories and information about their particular state.  I really enjoyed meeting my state standards in such a fun, innovative, and easy format.  My students learned some interesting facts about Alaska during their tour of the website, and it was simple to navigate and fun to use.

Benny’s Flag

We took some time on the website to look at all of the state flags in our nation.  They are as varied and unique as the states themselves, but my students could not quite understand the meaning and importance of the flag of Alaska.  Why was it blue? IMG_0796What do the stars represent?  So, one morning, I pulled them to my carpet for Reader’s Workshop, and I read the lovely picture book Benny’s Flag, written by Phyllis Krasilovsky and illustrated by Jim Fowler.

As I read the story, my students were captivated by the haunting illustrations that brought the simple text to life.  The author did a very thoughtful job of sharing the positive attitude and outlook of Benny Benson to the reader.

Benny was a young Aleut boy with a tragic past.  He was born in the remote Alaskan fishing village of Chignik, and due to heartbreaking circumstances, was raised in an orphanage during most of his childhood.  It was his positive outlook and spirit that really inspired my students.

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Benny Benson holding the Alaska flag at the Jesse Lee Home, Seward, Alaska. ASL-P01-1921, Alaska State Library-Historical Collections. Photo courtesy MS14-1-1 Alaska State Library.

Before 1927, Alaska did not have a flag of its own.  Since 1867, when the United States purchased Alaska from Russia, Alaska had only flown the United States flag.  In 1926, territorial Governor George Parks decided to create a contest for children to design a special flag for the territory.  This flag would one day become the state flag and be a symbol for so many.

Benny dreamed of one day becoming a humble, Alaska fisherman, and his dreams helped inspire his design for the flag of Alaska we know today.  In May of 1927, Benny’s flag captivated the judging panel and was adopted as the official territorial flag.  What an honor and an uplifting experience for such a young person.  My students were captivated by this!  I must admit, I was tearful and deeply moved finishing the book, something my students become used to year to year!

Benny’s Flag left us wanting to know more.  So, I turned to the Alaska Historical Society which had a great deal of information and some photographs of Benny from this time period.  I reached out to the library in Juneau, and they graciously agreed to allow me to share these special photographs from the collection in this post.

I especially love what Benny wrote on his actual submission,

”The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaska flower. The North Star is for the future of the state of Alaska, the most northerly in the Union. The dipper is for the Great Bear – symbolizing strength.”

Referring back to our time spent investigating the state symbols on the State Symbols USA site, it all made sense to my students now!  We talked about what an amazing opportunity it must have been to be a child and design a flag that would be admired by so many.  “Let’s design our own flags!” Lucas said.  We all agreed to jump into our fun project, and I asked my class if we should try and create our own version of the Alaska state flag. “No!  That would be disrespectful to Benny!”  So, a change of plans were in order!  We decided to create our own flags.

Fraction and Decimal Flags

In math class this week we spent some time reviewing fractions and decimals, so we decided to create mathematical flags using 100’s grid charts.  These would not be an Alaska flag (Benny would not approve), but a fanciful flag created for an unknown state or country from our imaginations.  First, we did some research about flags by studying international maritime flags and their meanings.  Nautical flags are geometric in nature and perfect for a mathematical design.  We referred back to our study of the state flags online, but for this math activity, we had to create a geometric square flag and then convert the colors into fractions and decimals.  The Fraction Flag online game allowed us, whole group, to review fractions and helped inspire our color choices and design for our independent work.

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When we finished our designs, the students filled in a fraction/decimal sheet taking their numbers to the hundredths place for decimals.  Since we are learning about decimals to the thousandths place, we decided to create a special class flag from a 1,000’s grid.  We did the math, and I needed 10 of the 100’s grid charts to make 1,000 little squares.  I cut and taped together 10 charts, and we were ready to create!

Math Flag Challenge

When we finished, we created a chart for our fractions and decimals, and helped each other count the 1,000 colored squares on our flag!

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Integrating art, history, and technology into my teaching takes learning to a deeper level for my students, and this lesson certainly had it all.  We learned a lot about Texas and Alaska, and we created something meaningful together.  Do you want to take on this math challenge?  Follow the lesson plan below:

Benny’s Flag

Fraction and Decimal worksheet

100’s grid chart

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Our 1,000’s grid flag data!

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