Self-Directed Math: The 5th Graders Speak

The 5th Graders took a moment this spring to reflect on an activity they call Math Challenges in which they utilize teamwork and strategy to find an answer to a question with mathematical principles.


Written by Mia and Taylor from the Hawaiian Hummingbirds and Night Wolves, 5th graders at Village School

Our names are Taylor and Mia, and we are fifth graders at Village school. Sometimes Ms. Jill gives us challenges. This is when she either gives a group a project to do with a parent to guide us, or gives the class something to learn and research about, but we only have two days to work on them. We learn, figure out, explain and/or present what we’ve worked on. A few we’ve done include, “How much larger is a snack n’ share Snickers bar than a normal Snickers bar in weight and length?” and “Does the extra 0.099 on a cleaning wipe matter?” We really enjoy doing these because they are fun but challenging at the same time. For one of the class challenges, we made an American Girl Doll stop motion teaching the Lattice Method of Multiplication. Overall, we’ve really enjoyed these challenges, because they give us time to improve our strategies and skills.

About Math

By: Donya V.

Math is one of my favorite subjects in school. I enjoy learning about new strategies. We recently got to do a challenge about either the lattice method or the ancient Egyptian method. We had to research about one of those methods and then make a poster, google slide, google doc, or even a game to show how to use that method. It was a bit of a challenge at first but once I got the hang of it, it was really fun. We also do a group time where we have a group 1 and a group 2. Each group has a certain amount of time where we go on the carpet and learn about different math strategies, math games, using grids, and sometimes we get to use different arrays that are made out of plastic. Sometimes we even make funny math jokes. Ms. Jill makes learning math really fun. I always enjoy learning math.


By Evelyn C.

As a student who enjoys a challenge, Ms. Jill lets me and others take on additional, independent math. The things we do include Khan Academy and Challenges after the workbook pages.

In Khan Academy, there are videos on various subjects, including math. We can choose what lessons we do, making sure that we are challenged. I personally am working on the coordinate plane, square roots, and rewriting Decimals as fractions.

The most recent challenge we did was trying to explain either the Lattice Method or the Egyptian Method and compare it to what we consider the standard algorithm for multiplication. I chose to do the Lattice Method.

I would rather do this than the standard curriculum the other kids have to do. The carpet lessons are either very simplified or don’t even make sense to the teacher.


By Eliza W.

I think that math is interesting and fun except for problem strings because we do them all the time. I think that in math I understand what I learn but I do not remember it. I think that I need more ways to remember what I learn. I think that math is fun and sometimes a challenge. Sometimes I leave math feeling like my my brain is exploding with information in a good way. In conclusion math is fun, challenging, interesting, and informative in my opinion.

How I Feel About Math

By: Neiman

To be honest I feel good about math. I feel like I’m on the right track. However, sometimes I think that the math is too hard for me, other times my classmates finish before me and that makes me feel unpleasant. The Problem of the Month is fine, I like it, but, every month it changes, and it gets more challenging, and if it’s too hard I don’t do it. I need to work on my division skills, and I think the teachers could help me by teaching us long division. It would be nice if you could make the Problem of the Month easier every other time. But, other from the lack of teaching us long division and the Problem of the Month’s challenging questions, I think math is ok.

The Fun Challenges of Math

By: Shira Y.& Margaret D.

Part of our math experiences are all of the fun challenges that we do in math. For example, about two weeks ago, we had a challenge were we researched a different way to do multiplication, and make a project about it. We chose to make an iMovie, and we made it about two grandpas and Lattice Multiplication.

Another example is the Snickers Bar Project, which we are still working on now. It is when we go on a website which tells us the information we need. The “Big Question” is How many times does a fun size snickers bar go into a slice n share snickers bar? We haven’t solved it yet, but we will!

Another challenge we do is Problem of the Month, or as we call it: POM. POM is a few pages we get each month with different levels: Level A, Level B, Level C, ect. It goes all the way to Level E or F, depending on the problem. Right now we’re working on the POM, part and whole. It is about lines of symmetry. We are currently on Level C. after we have finished each level, we write a write-up. A write up is when we explain how we do each problem, how we solved it, and what we learned from it.

Altogether, we hope you enjoyed reading our article about our fun challenges in math. Hopefully, you learned about how we do things in 5th grade, in math.

Shira’s POM Level A

Margaret’s POM Level A


Our iMovie


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