Because I'm more of a literacy girl and can truly relate to my students who struggle with math (because I've been there too), I really strive to make sure my students know how they will use the math skills I'me teaching them out in the real world.
I'm very honest with them. I tell them when they will use certain math skills in real life.
It's because I'm honest with my students that they trust me when I say, "Listen up, we are about to learn something really important."
I have found myself saying this a lot during our fractions unit. On paper, fractions are difficult for my 4th graders to conceptualize. They might not mean much, but bring in food to practice fractions and you've got a winning lesson!
Last week, I brought in a loaf of Irish Soda Bread. My students and I considered how we could cut the loaf into 20 equal pieces so we could all have a piece. They talked amongst themselves and determined that if I cut the loaf into 10 slices one direction then cut it down the middle in the other direction, the result would be 20 pieces. Brilliant!
Yesterday, I brought in eight pound cake muffins left over from Sunday's family dessert. Again, they talked in small groups to see if they could solve this real life math problem. How could they split the eight muffins into 20 pieces?
This challenge was a bit more difficult. Twenty wasn't easily divisible by eight. But, after talking it through, they determined that if we cut each muffin into fifths, that would mean we would have 40 total pieces so everyone could have two pieces, or 2/5 of the whole.
Needless to say, my students have become quite proficient at fractions. Food motivates!