Catapult Chicken And Talking For Reasoning

I was playing on the iboard site tonight and came across this brilliant activity in the maths trial Pack. First of all the name appealed, but then came the visuals. Picture three chickens, a stack of weights and a catapult! What to do? What to do? A serious Homer Moment arose, but with an inevitable outcome. As I expect any self respecting student would do, I put as many weights as possible on the trap door, loosed these on the catapult and then sat back as each chicken was thrust skyward beyond their roosts before, slowly drifting back to mother earth assisted by a parachute.

Putting aside for a moment the humour and obvious fun I had, my initial free and semi structured play engaged me in a series of trial and refinement processes, as I visually evaluated the effect that the simulated masses had on the catapult and its aility to raise the chickens to their roosts. Further play and I found myself estimating what masses would be needed to lift each of the three different chickens to various levels on the tree and this in itself became a bit of an art.

Devised as a tool to support problem solving in context with year 1 students (5-6yrs), "Catapult Chicken" is part of iBoard's developing tool kit to support the Primary Mathematics Framework in Foundation and Key Satge One. As with other tools developed by the team, beyond its surface entertainment value is a well thought out in, to solving problems with inbuilt space for teacher and student creativity, and oppportunities to extend the face value tasks through "talk for reasoning" and estimation.
  • How could we arange the chickens largest to smallest, in the branches?
  • How could we do this from top to bottom, or bottom to top?
  • How many weights might we need to boost the largest chilcken up to the middle branch?
  • What would need to happen if...? we wanted to get the large chicken to the top branch?
  • Can we order the chickens largest to smallest, bottom to top?
I like the possibilities presented by the game to differentiate activities iteratively through variation in the complexity of language use, while allowing visual modelling and discussion to take place around a shared text as we think and begin reasoning together.

The activity besides being really good fun, would work realy well with students working in pairs or individually during "give and go" main sessions interspersed with mini plenaries that followed on from free play. Here the children could also discuss and devise problems and challenges for the class to work on, with students sharing solutions on the IWB and explaining processes or giving reasons for their choices. I can also imagine some of the students in my current maths group enjoying the use of this tool to support modelled reasoning and estimation tasks in plenary sessions or as an introductory thinking activity and starting point for a puzzles and problems sessions. The environment I would suggest is one that in developing inclusion strategies, and thinking about what the learner needs is as applicable to the stage of development as it is to age. Perhaps I am only 7 at heart rather than a multiple of... but I loved it!

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