Playing with Our Food, Nutrition, and Fraction Line Plots

Fraction line plots did not come naturally to my learners or my teaching.  Then I found a way to relate it to food, and suddenly it made so much sense!

It all started when I discovered the Smash Your Food site.  It's not only educational but also really gross.  So of course, my fourth graders loved it.  We affectionately referred to it all week as "Squish My Food Dot Com."

Originally our Health teacher (yes, my kids have health as a special, which is pretty great) told my class about it.  As you can guess, (sadly) our specialists don't get time built in to bring kids to the computer room, so he could only talk about the site.  He said it was a fun way to see how unhealthy various foods really are.  "You might be surprised to see how much sugar is in some foods."  I was waiting at the door to pick up my class when I heard him so I offered, "Hey, our class has a blog (besides this one).  I can put a link on there and even introduce it during our computer time."

He was so grateful.  :)  I put the link on our blog, and a couple kids tried it that evening.  Then on Friday, during our computer lab time, I set up the program on the big screen for everyone to experience the messy info.

With a quick poll for the median age, majority gender, and the law of central tendency dictating that the majority activity level should be moderate, we looked at the selection of foods available for squishing.

The first vote was for a slice of pizza.

The kids guessed there would be 1 cube of sugar, 3/8 tablespoons of salt, and 3 teaspoons of oil.

Next we watched the press come down and pulverize the nasties out of it.  There goes that oil.  Ewwwwww.

The next screen showed that one of their guesses was correct, but one of them was half of the actual amount!

Although we did spend time on other activities in the computer room, I always give my kids some guided choice time (sometimes they are allowed to read and comment on the blog, other times they are allowed to play any math game I've linked from the blog, and so on).  This time playing on Smash Your Food some more independently was on the agenda, and it was a "smash" hit.  Most kids happily watched every available food get smashed, then went back and watched their favorites on repeat. This was key to give them background information about the nutritional information of foods before reducing them to numbers on fraction line plots. [Update:  This site seems to have vanished and possibly became an app.  The good news is you can still watch a Smash Your Food video on YouTube.]

Investigating Nutrition Information on Fraction Line Plots

In order to capitalize on their excitement, I carried the subject of nutrition into our study of fraction line plots.  You know that pesky common core standard that math textbooks don't cover at all (CCSS Math 4.MD.B.4)?  Yeah, that one.

I plotted some nutritional information I got from the website, plus a few other popular foods.  Having various data points plotted on a fractional number line became more clear to them because they already had some background on the subject matter.

Further Practice with Fraction Line Plots created a couple worksheets to help kids practice reading and interpreting line plots with fractions.  One of them is based on the sugar content of the foods we researched.  The other worksheet uses a novel context, which was perfect for homework.

You don't have to do one in order to do the other, but this math concept worked really well in conjunction with the site.  Have you smashed your food with your class?

Update: Due to popular demand, I've created a fraction line plots resource with even more practice! This new resource is perfect for you if you want: Additional practice for your fourth graders
2. Task cards instead of worksheets
3. Differentiated materials for learners who struggle to get started or recall directions.

Here's how I like to use both.  I start with the sugar lesson with the whole class.  I assign the plant worksheet for homework.  Then I use the fraction line plot task cards in small groups/centers on days that we are doing spiral review.  Click to take a look at the preview and see if these are right for your learners!  
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