Focus on Math

Helping children become mathematicians!

Questions Regarding Snowmen: gr 2-4 January 5, 2012

Yesterday five of my seven math classes at Charlie Lake School did questions that had to do with building snowmen. The two grade 2 classes did this version:

Some children at Charlie Lake School are having a contest to see who can make the best snowman. Each snowman is to be made with three big snowballs and then decorated. If there are 16 snowmen being built at the school, how many snowballs have to be rolled?

I was delighted with the thinking and figuring of the students. One grade 2 girl used two mini 10-frames to solve this. She began to skip count by threes, writing a number in each of the spaces until she had written 16 numbers.  Other students used the 100-dot array, while others added 3 16’s explaining that there would be 16 snowmen heads, 16 “middles” and 16 “bottoms”. Many students drew pictures of all 16 snowmen and use their pictures to count the number of snowballs. As I have stated before, I like giving word problems such as this that are open-ended regarding the strategies that students can use.

The other three classes (grade 2/3, grade 3, grade 3/4) did this version of the snowmen question:

Some grade 2, 3 and 4 classes at Charlie Lake School are building snowmen. Grade 2’s will use two snowballs, grade 3’s will use three snowballs, and grade 4’s will use 4 snowballs. If the grade 2’s are building 9 snowmen, the grade 3’s are building 16 snowmen, and the grade 4’s are building 15 snowmen, how many snowballs in all have to be rolled?

This question had more numbers in it than any other question I had given to date and thus was a bit more complex. In the grade 2/3 class we created a chart showing for each grade in the question what their snowmen would look like and how many were to be built. I suggested to those students that they work on the grade 2 and 3 snowmen and than go on to the grade 4 snowmen as they had time. In all three of the classes doing this version, students wanted to solve the problem by adding 9 + 16 + 15, which would give the total number of snowmen but not the total number of snowballs. In many cases students had to draw pictures to sort out all the numbers. As always, students who solved the problem before the working time was up were to find other strategies/methods for solving the problem.

In all it was a great day of solving snowmen problems. Too bad that the weather did not cooperate so the children could go outside and build some real ones!

Mathematically yours,



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