Shake, Rattle, and Estimate!


Second graders are becoming masters of place values and estimation through a mathematical and musical investigation of maracas.  Over the course of a week, they learned to quickly count a large volume of beans using base-ten groupings, identify by sound whether a maraca is full or empty, and play along to jazz music with the instruments they created.

At the beginning of the week students were asked to count piles of several hundred beans. At first it was difficult to keep track, but they quickly discovered that grouping by tens made it easy to tell at a glance how many beans were on the table.

After practicing their place value and estimation skills, students launched an investigation into sound and music.  They discovered that a full maraca makes a low sound, while a less full maraca makes a high sound.  Using sound comparisons, they could estimate the number of beans!

Finally, they were ready to build their own maracas and play along to the Charleston from their listening unit on jazz.

The maraca project is part of this year’s emphasis on problem solving.  Students are given the problem first, in this case a pile of beans and a tune without a maraca track.  The estimation lesson comes after students have struggled together to create a solution, and then as a way to describe and replicate what they have already discovered on their own.