Going Global with 5th Graders-Crunching Numbers, Living Life and Graphing

As I reflect on the last few weeks of math class, I think about the amazing conversations I have had with my 5th graders and the energy they bring to class each day in the name of global poverty.  However after all these years, I still find myself wondering how 5th and 6th graders can be so different.  A little more literal and harder to push beyond the surface but interesting none the less.  

Unable to grasp what another PBL would look like in my curriculum at the moment, my plan is to spend 10 days investigating global poverty with the boys a little differently.  While I am hopeful that in the years to come we can incorporate PBL into this part of the poverty unit, I am quite positive that the boys have looked at life through a different lense for nearly two weeks and are more empathetic to how people live outside of their own San Francisco world.  

Speaking of...  I started the unit by asking the boys the question, "If San Francisco was a bubble, and you only knew what existed in this city (you had no US or Global News etc...) How do you think ou would view the world?  What things do you have to assume would exist everywhere?"

I wanted them to think about how we may view the world if we were not able to travel out of San Francisco, if we didn't have news or internet, etc... I was having them imagine a world that is a lot less "flat" if you will.  Here are some responses:  Cars on everyblock.  Everyone would recycle.  Houses are expensive. Every city has a diverse population.  Everyone lives on/near a bay.  A lot of wealth.  Homeless people sleep on the streets.  Everywhere has lots of stores and restaurants.  Everyone's minimum wages is $10.24.  A lot parks in cities.  Everyone has an iphone.  Everywhere has a beach, but you don't really swim in the water because it's really cold.  It's always around 60 degrees and the worst weather is fog, we wouldn't know about snow.  Everyone in the world speaks english.  

This question will play a vital role in our wrap up as I ask the boys to compare and contrast the different thoughts they have about local and global poverty having watched the movies "30 Days on Minimum Wage" and "Living On One".  

So, WHAT DID WE DO FOR NEARLY 2 WEEKS!?!  Let's take a look!

Day 1:  Boys wandered around the class to do a silent chalk talk.  I enjoyed their responses but this was a big day for me in recalling how literal they still are.  But, I also started to realize how compassionate and empathetic they are as well.  


Day 2:  The boys participated in Global Mall and Take A Step for Equity from www.facingthefuture.org.  These activities were taken from their book Engaging Students Through Global Issues.  While Take A Step for Equity is an activity where they are randomly placed into an economic status and I read them what life is like, the Global Mall activity challenges the boys to make some hard decisions with their money.  

Here are some responses about the activity:  

I had 1000 dollars to spend. I bought fire wood no cost. Water 200. Food 150. luxury items radio 50. And education 400. I did education 400 because I could get a better job and get richer and richer and soon would be able to get all of the better items like maybe go on a vacation

 In the Global Mall I had 1,000 dollars to spend. I chose, Good healthy food, Indoor plumbing, Coal from a local market, Elementary Middle and High school, And Good medical care available 1 hour away. I chose these because I don't have to worry about getting food poisoning, parasites, and also will have an ok career. I didn't get any luxury items at the end because if I had I couldn't get plumbing.

In the global mall I had 200 dollars to spend. I bought rice and beans, untreated water collected from the village, firewood from a local forest, the crowded school for one hour per day, and then I had no more money to get anything else. I bought rice and beans because i think it is a pretty good way to sustain you and also because if I went any higher I would only have $50 left. I bought the untreated water from the village because it was the best water I could afford to buy and it isn't carried for 2 miles. I bought the fire wood from a local forest because it had no cost and it was affordable. And I bought the crowded school for an hour a day because it was all I could afford. 

The global marketing gave me $200 dollars. I spent my $200 dallors on: 1)rice beans once twice a day. $75. 2)heat/ fuel. $0. 3)untreated water. $75. 4)education. $50. And I had $0 dollars left. I thought it was hard choosing all the things I need.

I got 500 dollars to spend. First I would by the cheapest food so I don't have to spend a lot of money. Then I would trade for water and other liquid sources. After that I would chop up some fire wood for heat. I would by a sleeping bag and a cheap pillow so I could sleep. I would get a good education so when I get older i would get a higher chance of getting a better job. I would buy fuel and gasoline for the fire. Pay for a monthly check up for the doctor so I could stay healthy. Then buy a refrigerator to keep my food clean. And keep a water filter to keep me from getting sick. Etc... 

Day 3:  Unfortunately I wasn't here this day. The boys began class with a global stats workout as a warm up.  The boys are used to warm ups that don't have much life relevance or real life problems so they found it interesting to work with real numbers.  I had assigned the boys each a geograpic area to investigate following the warm up.  I gave them a worksheet that allowed them to gather similar stats.  I encouraged them to choose places that they were not familiar with, but again I wasn't here and many of them chose 1st and 2nd world countries. 


Day 4:  I placed the information they gathered into a spreadsheet and we discussed our findings.  The boys realized that with few exceptions all the statisictis were similar. I then passed out a card to each boy with a country on it from the following list.   I sent the boys back to invesigate these countries.  They were astounded at what they discovered.  This led to a conversation about gathering statistics, sample size, and outliers. It also gave us real life stats to consider graphing. 

Day 5: I recognized that it was going to be hard for the boys to graph the information we gathered appropriately.  I wanted to teach them how to use graphs and tables, but I also wanted it to be age and technologically appropriate.  So using this website, I created the following worksheet.  The boys had to choose which kind of graph would be most appropriate for each of the data sets, give titles and labels and were given one of them to graph by hand.  Lastly, the boys created them using the internet site create a graph for kids.   Here are some of their graphs:)  



Day 6 & Day 7  The boys watched "Living On One"'s Video Blog. Amazing.  I will share more about this in a later blog as move forward next week.  

Upcoming Activities: A reading of Beatrice's Goat with First Grade Buddies and a Service Project Pi Day!  Watch out:)