Fellow Profile: Michelle Hine

Michelle Hine
  • G-TEAMS Cohort: 2012-13
  • Graduate Program: Program in Applied Mathematics
  • Teacher Partners: Sarah Clements and Stephanie Greene-Hunley
  • School: Peter Howell Elementary School
  • Grade level: 4-5
  • Topics: Elementary School Math, Investigations Curriculum

"Math pervades our life--it is the backbone of the sciences. Only by understanding mathematics can we understand the world around us."

Research Interests

Michelle Hine is a graduate student in the Program of Applied Mathematics at the University of Arizona. Her research interests lie in the area of mathematical modeling. She uses computers to study scientific problems, and is currently creating a Finite Element mathematical model to study growth and remodeling of soft tissue. Michelle is in her third year of graduate school, and received her Master's degree in Spring 2012.

Classroom Activities

Michelle is working at Peter Howell Elementary School with Sarah Clements and Stephanie Greene-Hunley teaching 4th and 5th grade. One of the primary goals of their partnership is to help students develop a better understanding of mathematics through writing. Writing helps crystallize and clarify thinking. Michelle helps to bring this to the classroom through informal and fun biweekly sessions of "Problem-a-palooza!" The students solve a variety of math and logic problems, and are required to write explanations of their thinking. In addition, Michelle, Sarah, and Stephanie plan projects to enhance learning and bring math across the curriculum. On a daily basis, Michelle works with students one-on-one, provides a mathematician's perspective in the classroom, and teaches the students from the Investigations curriculum.

Michelle also had the opportunity to work with both classes to develop extended projects. Project based learning greatly increases student engagement, because it facilitates students taking responsibility for their own learning. By giving the students freedom in how they approach the subject and express their findings, an instructor can create an environment where students feel personally invested in the project. Project based learning also easily lends itself to cross-curricular integration and real-world applications.

With fifth grade, Michelle worked on an Original Soda Flavors project, which combined math, science, and persuasive writing. Students created their own soda recipes, conducted market research, and 'mass produced' their soda using proportional reasoning. They finished off the project by creating product packaging and filming commercials. Michelle and Sarah presented this work at the ITSP Conference in Boston. The ''Recipe for an Engaged Classroom'' presentation is available below.

Soda activity supplies Soda activity

In fourth grade, Michelle and Stephanie ran a month-long Stock Market Project to combine math with economics. Every Tuesday and Thursday, student teams of three followed their chosen stock from a list of kid-friendly stocks: Apple, Coca-Cola, Disney, Facebook, Hershey's, and McDonald's. The students learned about the stock exchange and practiced buying and selling stock with manipulatives. They also learned why companies sell stock (to raise money to buy new supplies, like tables or a computer server) and why people sell stock (to try to make money). The teams were responsible for graphing the value of 100 shares and trying to figure out why their stock value went up or down over the course of the month. (Link to Project Inspiration: Victor Piercey.)

The other project Michelle and Stephanie implemented was the Fourth Grade Design Project. Students either designed a new playground, created a new school meal, or picked a new animal for Reid Park Zoo and designed its enclosure. Teams of three students had to interview an expert, survey other students, perform online research, create a budget, make a graphical representation of their final design, and present their results to the class. Some groups even got to go on a field trip to the zoo to interview a zookeeper! These projects combine math and writing with real-world applications. Project files are available under the teaching materials section.

All of the project-based learning opportunities were presented at the 2013 G-TEAMS Summer Institute and Heatwaves Summer Institute in June 2013. The ''Making Math Stick: Teaching Through Project Based Learning'' presentation is available below.

Lessons Learned

My own understanding of mathematics has been enriched as I teach students. For example, in fourth grade we study how to 'break numbers apart' in order to more easily multiply multi-digit numbers. The Investigations curriculum focuses on having students learn many different strategies for each method, stressing understanding before having students work toward efficiency. As a young student, I often learned the standard algorithm and memorized the steps, rather than really thinking about the reasoning behind the algorithm. I also enjoy seeing the new perspectives students bring to learning mathematics.

Teaching elementary school is both challenging and very rewarding. I am learning the great amount of flexibility required of elementary school teachers. Almost every day we adjust lesson plans, homework, and scheduling. There are so many different topics to cover in elementary school because teachers are responsible for all the subjects. At the same time, this provides a unique opportunity to connect the curricula together.

Teaching Materials