The clothesline is a simple low-tech visual and effective manipulative at fostering student engagement, using student arguments and reasoning to structure classroom discourse, exposing student misconceptions, and helping students attend to precision.
Clothesline math activities are fun for teachers and students! I encourage you to try them out for yourself. To help guide your thinking, I’m writing up what I’ve learned from my experiences using the clothesline as the backbone of some lesson inquiries I’ve conducted. This write-up is about my experiences in 4th grade classrooms using the clothesline to encourage students to develop strategies on how to plot and compare values of fractions on a number line (4.NF.1, 4.NF.2). However, this lesson particular pathway is appropriate for 4th-9th grade students depending on their learning needs.
I hope that there are other 6th (and 7th) grade teachers out there that might find this analysis useful if they are looking for ways to increase student engagement, thinking, and discourse around percents, fractions, and proportional reasoning standards. This engaging learning opportunity can be used at the beginning of a unit as an inquiry-based exploration and pre-assessment. It can also be used as a way of assessing student learning in the middle or the end of a unit. It’s a low-floor opportunity that allows for students at all levels to participate. It also allows for rich discussion and sense-making because solutions can be reached via multiple strategies.
It’s my hope that there are other elementary teachers out there that might find this analysis useful if they want to use this compelling and fun lesson by Graham Fletcher in their classrooms to engage their students in exploring addition strategies with regrouping (2.NBT.5, 2.NBT.6, 2.NBT.9). This engaging lesson is very open in the middle. Students have a wide variety of addition strategies they can use including concrete models (base-10 blocks, place value discs, etc) and abstract strategies (arrow method, decomposing, bar method, etc).
I had a chance to use Steve Wyborny’s tile images as a part of a 3rd grade lesson inquiry. The tile problems are an effective tool to engage students in discourse about their mathematical reasoning. Furthermore, it allows teachers to identify student misconceptions about partitioning and calculating area. These misconceptions often prevent students from understanding how to use the area model to reason about fractions (3.NF.1).