Stepping on a Dragon’s Butt

The Activities

  1. Topic: Large Numbers: Book: Millions, Billions, & Trillions by D. Adler.
  2. Topic: Programming: We hadn’t done programming in a while, so I made some fairly easy programs to trace, loosely related to Chinese New Year.  All the programs are available here; the programming worksheet is available here (we laminated one copy per child and used dry erase markers).  The only new thing I added was “Ask a Friend”: I paired the kids up, and then when they got something like “Box_X = Ask_A_Friend”, they had to ask their partner for what to put in Box X.  I also had “Ask_A_Friend[Color]”, where they had to ask their partner for a color to put in the box — so we basically ended up with MadLibs.
  3. Topic: Measurement: I bought two standard latex balloons filled with helium at the grocery store.  The problem was to figure out how many balloons it would take to lift one of the children.  The available materials were paper clips and a kitchen scale.

How Did It Go?

All the kids attended.  Unfortunately, this circle was pretty wild; I almost stopped it early because many of the kids weren’t paying attention during the final activity.  The programming went very well and the kids liked the book, though, so it was still a moderately successful circle.

Millions, Billions, & Trillions

This was a pretty interesting book that talked about how big a million, billion, and trillion were.  The kids were particularly interested in how long it would take to count to each of these numbers.  One of the kids didn’t believe that a trillion dollars in $100 bills would make as tall a stack as it would (700 miles).


The kids were all quite comfortable with putting things in boxes and then using them, definitely better than last time we did programming.  Nothing was too tricky, but I did vary the order that I used the boxes in, I had one where you set from one box into another, and one with a loop.  No one had any problems.  There was some variation in speed, which depended entirely on how fast each kid wrote.  The kids loved “Ask A Friend”, but it also got pretty wild.  Some of the supplied answers weren’t entirely appropriate, which is how we ended up with “[Anonymized kid’s name] stepped on a dragon’s [butt].” Needlessly to say, they thought this was hilarious.

How Many Balloons?

For those who are curious, the answer is about 1200 :).  The kids immediately understood the question; they didn’t really have any ideas about how to measure how much a balloon could carry, but they quickly caught on to the idea of attaching paper clips until it didn’t go up any more.  This part went ok.  Next we had to figure out how much 20 paper clips weighed (actually, when they measured, they got about 12 — but I had measured the balloons right after I got them, 8 hours earlier, and they could hold 20 or 21 at that point).  Adding 20 proved to be too small to see on the scale; one of the kids suggested measuring 40.  We ended up measuring 100 and getting 3 ounces.  Around this time, things started getting pretty crazy, all the paper clips were dumped out at one point, kids were climbing on the table, crawling under benches, talking loudly, etc.  I almost ended circle early and had to send one kid out for a bit.  There were a couple of kids who were still thinking about the problem, and I did get some good thoughts out of them.  I helped them go from 5 balloons carries 3 ounces => 25 balloons carries about a pound.  I was hoping they could do the rest, but no one was able to do it, so I showed them the multiplication and gave them the answer.

This is a pretty nice activity that just didn’t go as well this time; I think the lesson for next time is to do the group activities earlier and save individual stuff for last, since they have less problems staying on task with individual work.


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