Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Measurement Tug of War

I have always found the 'Tug of War' thinking routine intriguing, but I didn't want to force it's use as I felt like it wouldn't be meaningful if I just plugged it in anywhere.  I tried it earlier this year, but it flopped... big time!  I put the idea of using it on the back burner and figured that one day I'd discover a good use for it.  Last month during our measurement unit, I had this idea that using it to assess their understanding of the Metric System and the U.S. Customary Systems of measurement would be really fun and it might actually work.  I posed the question "Which system of measurement do you find easier to use?"  On one side I had the metric system, and the other the U.S. Customary.  (I then used a broken tape measure to make it look cute!).  This time, to my surprise, it went much better than the first attempt.  The kids were really thinking about which they preferred, and it was very close as to which was preferred.
The majority of the students that chose the metric side commented on the conversions and how it was easier to add or subtract zeros to find other measurements within the system.
The students that chose the U.S. Customary system made connections between how often they have practiced or used the system and that 'practicing it more makes it easier'.
I found it amazing that they were able to self reflect and think about the two sides and really make evaluative decisions about their learning and capabilities and mathematicians. 


  1. Shannon,
    I have felt the same way about Tug Of War. Maggie introduced us to it two years ago, I haven't yet discovered a way to use it. Your use of it has re-inspired me to think of a way to use it in my classroom. I really like the fact that they thoughtfully choose which one they preferred!

  2. I also have not used tug-of-war as a thinking routine, but keep wanting to give it a try. Not only are they comparing (DOK-3) but are also critiquing (DOK-4). Whoa! Good stuff Shannon.

  3. Shannon,,
    What a great way to elicit such a meaningful conversation. I have not tried this routine, but I am movitivated to try it now. I love the thinking the students did. I am going to try this very same question with my new 5th graders next year to see how much schema they have on the different measuring systems.

  4. Shannon,
    I, too, have not tried Tug of War, but definitely remember Maggie's routine with the question about getting new fish for the classroom. I really like that you used it as a self-reflection piece and am wondering if I could use the routine for the end of the ants unit ... Thanks for the ideas!

  5. What a great way to use this thinking routine. From your post it sounds like when planning this unit, you knew you wanted to assess students application and preferences of the different measurement systems, and I think you found the perfect way. Personally, it's really hard for me plan how students are going to show what they know prior to starting a unit. (Backwards design is hard!) But, it sounds like you were flexible in your thinking and found a good fit! Good work!