My fourth grade students are exploring exponents this week. Students are learning how to write numbers in exponential form and covert the numbers to standard form. For the most part, students have had a productive week learning how to write very large and small numbers. Later in the week, I decided to have students complete a team task enrichment project. Students were asked to compute large numbers. Here’s the Freight Train Wrap-Up prompt:

*Brianna loves freight trains. She learned that in 2011, there were about 1,283,000 freight cars in the United States. Brianna wondered whether all those train cars, lined up end to end, would wrap all the way around the Earth. Help Brianna answer her questions. Could a freight train with 1,283,000 cards wrap all the way around the Earth?*

I reviewed the criteria for success with the students and then placed them in teams. Students were asked to use an anchor chart to show their mathematical thinking. They could use markers, and other materials to showcase their solutions. Students were given around 20 minutes to work in their teams to find an answer. Some students drew pictures, while others decided on writing out equations. I heard a number of groups argue about the solution and what to compute. After about 15 minutes, most groups were close to finishing.

After the time was up, I brought the students to the front of the room. I briefly communicated all the different solutions that were evident. Students were asked to participate in a gallery walk. Gallery walks are used as a standard default activity for district meetings so I decided to try it out with my own class.

Students were then given three different Post-it notes. Each note was intended to ask students to indicate whether the chart that they were viewing answered these questions: 1) Did the team show their work? 2) Was there a solution? 3) Was there a visual representation? The note also indicated a question or an agreement.

Students efficiently traveled from group to group. They gave feedback and mostly agreed with what the other groups came up with. Students weren’t allowed to give feedback on their own anchor charts.

I then brought the students back to the front and we went through the problem together. We discussed the numbers, operations needed, and possible solutions. Students then went back to their original charts to read the feedback. Some students were surprised at the comments while others wanted to debate them immediately. I was able to touch base with each group and discuss what the constructive criticism might have meant. Students spend a decent amount of time talking with one another about their chart and process. Afterwards, students went back to their seats and prepared to leave.

This type of activity went well. After thinking about it I might consider doing something like this once every month or so. Also, I might need to think about how to get my hands on more anchor chart paper.