Divided Hearts – a 3 act


In my research,  I hadn’t come upon a 3 act lesson in which the students had to divide.  My 4th grade teachers wanted to see what a division 3 act lesson would look like, so I created one.  This lesson  also helped me in learning how to use more features on the iMovie application.

I ran around to about 5 classrooms in the last three weeks to try it out. The first time, I had major tech issues.  The 2nd time, I questioned  my own judgement in regards to the Act 1 movie.   By the 4th time, I was convinced it was a decent lesson.  Why?  It promoted really great discussion (Notice & Wonder), got the students showing multiple strategies in solving the problem, and as any 3 act lesson is….it was engaging!

I present to you “Divided Hearts.” (yes, those are the same heart candies from my other 3 acts.  The way I see it–I like getting more lessons out of one purchase.)

Act 1 – 


Notice –  (compiled between 4 classes)

  • instead of putting in–> hearts are coming out
  • video in reverse?
  • glass filled with hearts –>boxes pulling them out
  • used 2 boxes at a time
  • glass empty at the end
  • candy all different colors
  • the hearts were divided into different boxes
  • shows one box at the end
  • didn’t use hands


  • are the candies divided equally among the boxes?
  • how did they get candy inside the box?
  • how many candies were in the glass?
  • are there an even amount of candies in the cup?
  • how many candies were in each box?
  • how did they fly up inside the box?

What surprised me after each class was how fascinated the students were with showing the video in reverse.  Some of them couldn’t get past that.  However, I later told them that if I showed the video forwards, it would show how I’m adding hearts to the cup.  That might give them the idea of addiction or multiplication.  That wasn’t my intent.

Act 2

How many hearts?
How many boxes?

Before I continue with the lesson…take a moment to look at how many hearts are laid out. Take it all in.  Stare at those hearts. Those hearts and that layout became the bane of my existence for a few days.  I must have laid out those hearts and recreated the Act 3 video a good 4-5 times.  Sheesh.  But anything for the betterment of the students. Ok..rant over.


There were a range of strategies seen in every classroom.

Let’s start with these two… there were  a few students who didn’t know what else to do but start by counting out 168 candies.  The student on the right decided to use small lines.  It must have been exhausting to keep so many counted.

A few more strategies popped up that I have no explanation for (see below).  I had the students try to tell me about their work, and I was still stymied.  It’s not very often that I walk away still scratching my head.  I know they were onto something. If I had more time, I would have spent more time with them.

And then there were some who saw patterns and were making sense of what they had to do. They were avidly checking their work frontwards and backwards.  The 3rd student worked on her multiples until she got to 168.  She kept on persevering and that’s what mattered most.


Without saying a word to any of the students, I showed the last clip of the lesson.  At first, I heard groans because they thought they’d have to sit through 5 minutes of watching this random arm separate 168 hearts into 8 boxes.  However, once the video sped up, the fascination with movie making came back.  And when they counted the last hearts that fit into one box, the classes excitedly yelled “Yes” with a round of high fives.   That’s the moment that you eagerly anticipate as a teacher.  


Final thoughts

  • Technology is evil.  Always have a back up plan.  Because I save my videos to Vimeo, I was able to save myself and the lesson.  
  • My teachers have been learning just as much as I learn from the teachers and the students.  Some of them never knew of lessons that create so much discussion and intrigue.
  • Don’t want to ever count hearts again. I’m good for awhile (until next February). 


There is always more to come. 

Until next time….



Sharing Hearts – a Kinder 3 act

It’s that time of the year when our students are running to ___________(insert convenience store here—I prefer Target) to buy gobs of chocolates, candies, cards and all of the Valentine’s paraphernalia that is attributed to this holiday.    And in the spirit of such heartsy, lovey, dovey emotions, Mrs Z. and I put together another 3 act lesson. What better way to embody Valentine’s Day then to share with the ones you love.   In our case, it was sharing with your classmates.  

Act One –the fight.

Along with every Three Act lesson, we encourage the students to inquire about what they are seeing with the questions, “What do you notice?” and “What do you wonder?”

Notice –  (Compiled between 2 classes)

  • hands are fighting
  • I heard the math wizard’s voice
  • I see a box
  • They were ready to share.
  • Inside the box was candy
  • Candies are hearts
  • tried grabbing with hands
  • Candies are different colors

Wonder – (what are you curious about?  What questions are running through your head?) 

  • Why didn’t they get their own box of candies?
  • Did they have enough to share?
  • Are there other people there?
  • How many candies are in the box?
  • Why were they fighting?
  • Why weren’t there 2 boxes?

A bonus concept for the kinder teachers was that there were a few talking points to review.  Some students talked about what it means to share.  One class focussed on sharing so that the results are fair.   In one class, I had a 

Act 2 – How many hearts are in the box?

img_9196Act 2 consisted of us giving the students the information that there were 12 hearts in the box.  Using this candy-hearts template, we had the students figure out how many candy hearts Jared and his mom should get.  You can see the multiple ways that the students went about solving it.

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Mrs. Z called me over to listen in on one conversation.  Take a look below at what we observed.

Terrific piece of evidence.  This student observed that she knew that they were the same because they had the same number of cubes and had the same shape. 

Act 3 – The big reveal

Act 3 is usually my favorite because it reveals the answer.  It’s really the best part of the lesson because you can hear the “YES!” or see the high fives spreading throughout the entire class.  Here’s how we revealed the answer.


Overall the lesson went better than planned.  There was another teacher that observed Mrs. Z doing this lesson and whispered, “this is dividing.”  I nodded and told her that was true, however I knew that Mrs. Z had begun working on some addition.  I also told her that you never know what our students are capable of until you give them that opportunity.   

Keep spreading the LOVE of MATH!

Until next time…


Kinder clothesline with 6th grade


Some of my 6th graders went back to kindergarten.  They didn’t know it and we didn’t tell them till the end of the activity.  The teachers and I just wanted to do it out of sheer curiosity.   And it turned out to be a curiosity that was worth exploring.

Let me back up a bit.  Just last week, I led a workshop on the clothesline activity.  I like starting off with the teachers trying one out on their own.  I pulled out my weight cards that were used for kindergarten.  These cards are filled with colorful pictures of a bike, building, tree, a leaf, and other objects.  Students are asked to order the objects by weight (the lightest being on the left and the heaviest objects toward the right).  

When I tried this out in kindergarten, we had the students put their cards in 3 basic categories—-light weight, medium weight, and heaviest weight.  We were not looking for precision.   However, 6th grade brought in the precision aspect.  Because they have more background knowledge, they were not only integrating math, but science, social studies, and language arts.  The 6th grade teacher also told me that this was great because the students were persuading their peers as to which order the cards should go.  They had been working on argumentative statements in the weeks prior to this activity.  (Gotta love when you can bring more than one curriculum into an activity—I call it “more bang for your buck!”)

Let me give you a visual…

Leaf vs. Feather

Kindergartenput these in the “light category”.  No arguments from them.

6th gradeargued whether the leaf or the feathers should be switched.  One student brought up the fact that the leaf was made of water and the stem makes it heavier.  Another student claimed that there were 2 feathers compared to just one leaf.


Train- Toy or Real?

Kindergartenput the train in the heavy category although some questioned whether it was a toy train or a real train.

6th grade put it in the heavy category althought argued whether it was a toy or real.  One student said it was a toy because of the multi-colors.  Another student argued back that it was real because of the smoke coming out of the smoke stack.  Another student questioned whether it was made of wood or metal.

Da plane! Da plane!

Kindergarten put this card in the heavy side.  No questions/arguments.

6th grade put this card on the heavy side, however others had issues with it.  One student wondered if it was a toy plane.  Another students said there was blue sky behind it and so it was real.  Another student said the weight might vary because we don’t know if it’s full of people.

what the truck?

Kindergartenput this on the heavy side.  They said they have seen these trucks on the roads and highways.

6th grade – put it on the heavy side.  Questions of whether or not it was a toy were brought up.  Another student asked it if was filled with anything because that would make a difference.  For instance, the weight would vary if it were filled with feathers versus bricks.


Kindergartenput this in the middle category.  They did wonder if it was filled with anything.

6th grade Wondered if it were filled with anything.  One student said that when she bought a new backpack it was filled with paper to make it look full.  Another student said it could be filled with books.


One last thing.  We did not say a word about this being a kindergarten activity to the 6th graders.  We just told them to put the cards in order from least to greatest. At one point, an exasperated student exclaimed “THIS IS SO COMPLICATED!”   

Below is the final clothesline that the 6th graders “settled” on.  (There were some that were still not happy with the outcome.)


If you’d like to download your own set of weight cards..go here.

Until next time….