Measurement from the Bottom of the World to the Middle School Classroom

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  • 1 Washburn University, Topeka, KS 66621

Take an incredible true adventure; add a lot of estimation and hands-on measurement; stir in parts of reading, writing, history, geography, and science; and one has the recipe for a powerful mathematics lesson. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World is an extraordinary true story by Jennifer Armstrong. The book follows the story of Ernest Shackleton and 27 men who set out in 1914 to become the first people to cross Antarctica. Instead, their ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the ice and sank, leaving the crew who had no way to communicate with the outside world to find a way back to civilization. They made their way across ice floes and wild seas to an island where 22 of the men made camp to wait. Shackleton and 5 of his crew then set out in a 20-foot boat to cross 800 miles of ocean to find help. Nearly 2 years after the expedition began, the last of the crew were rescued, and all 28 men survived! For a week, in lieu of regular mathematics class and the time when teacher Karen Grokett normally reads to her sixth-grade students at Chase County Middle School in Strong City, Kansas, we went on a daily mathematics adventure. By doing a little planning and by inviting questions to encourage student inquiry, the lesson took on a remarkable life of its own.


LEE ANNE COESTER is interested in improved preparation of preservice teachers and in number sense and enjoys speaking for the Bureau of Education and Research (BER) and giving professional development workshops for school districts.

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Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School
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