Saturday, September 4, 2010


By Chris Wilson

Last year Lerner Publishing Group sent me their new math-inspired manga series intended for grades 3-5. Rather than writing a traditional review, I decided to test the books out and write about the experience. I choose MANGA MATH MYSTERIES #3: THE SECRET GHOST and wrote my own technology-based lesson plan for my 100 third graders.

Several students are taking martial arts classes. The instructor needs to hang shelving on all four walls of the dojo to store equipment and the students agree to help Sifu. First, they have to figure out the perimeter of the room in order to know how much shelving to purchase. The second half of the story focused on an old ghost story, perimeter and secret rooms. I chose to only use the first half of the perimeter story only because of time constraints.

I read the comic first and then consulted Missouri’s Grade Level Expectations (state standards) for grade 3 mathematics. I wanted to establish my standards before ever creating any lessons or activities, to ensure that the standards were the foundation for my unit.

Grade Level Standards –– Mathematics: Strand 4 Measurement
  • M1A: Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems and processes of measurement. Determine unit of measurement. Identify, justify and use the appropriate unite of measure (linear, time, weight).
  • M2A: Apply appropriate techniques, tools and formulas to determine measurements. Use standard or non-standard measurement. Use a referent for measures to make comparisons and estimates. Once established, I carved out the activities.
Grade Level Standards –– Communication Arts: Strand 1 Reading
  • R1Fd: Apply pre-reading strategies to aid comprehension: set a purpose.
  • R1Ge: During reading, utilize strategies to visualize
  • R1Hc: Apply post-reading skills to demonstrate comprehension of text: make predictions.
  • R1Hf: Apply post-reading skills to demonstrate comprehension of text: draw conclusions.
  • R1Hg: Apply post-reading skills to demonstrate comprehension of text: analyze.
National Technology Standards (ISTE):
  • 1A-C: Creativity and Innovation
  • 2A, D: Communication and Collaboration
  • 3A-B, D: Research and Information Fluency
  • 4A-D: Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making
  • 5B-D: Digital Citizenship
  • 6A-D: Technology Operations and Concepts

Even though I have a computer for every child, I did not use the one-to-one ratio at all times. I introduced the idea of perimeter (without defining it or using the actual word, yet) and then we explored what cooperative groups are and how they behave emphasizing the need for self-control and respect of all group members. I then broke students into heterogeneous cooperative groups (3-5 students per group) so each group had students of varying reading abilities and genders. I have two seating arrangements when using cooperative groups. When at their computers, all group members are seated in close proximity so they may actively share as each works individually. I also have students sit in discussion groups, where the group’s chairs are pulled away from the computers and are arranged in a tight circle. I then emphasize that no group members are to be left out and every student has a job in the group.

Using the document camera, we then read the book together stopping at page 13. The students in the story measured the room and – after some problems mixing standard and metric – discovered the room is 480 inches long and 300 inches wide. “So do we add 300 + 480 to find out how much shelving we need?” asked Amy.
Amy, like many students, has the misconception that adding the length and width will give a student the perimeter of a room. Her misunderstanding gives students the chance to safely confront their own misconceptions because they are not the only ones who were confused.

We stopped there and students moved into their discussion groups and I asked them: “What problem are the students in the story trying to solve?” Each group discussed it and then presented their thoughts. This gave me insight into reading comprehension. We then discussed what mathematics approach the students needed to take to solve the real problem. I required each member of each group to use dry erase boards to draw pictures, do mathematics and do their best. I walked around the room listening to their discussions and asking questions, although I did not guide beyond asking questions and I did not dispel any misunderstandings at that time. I wanted the students to confidently explore on their own without feeling stupid or criticized. The time for correcting misunderstandings came a bit later. After sufficient time a member of each group presented what his or her group discussed. We listened to each group’s mathematics approach to the problem and I recorded each group’s approach, right or wrong, on the Smart Board for future reference. We processed what we thought afterwards. The students were appropriate to one another as they discussed what they thought would work and what would not work. Some of the common approaches were as follows:

480 + 300 = 780

480 + 480 + 300 + 300 = 1,560

480 + 480 = 960; 300 + 300 = 600. Therefore 960 + 600 = 1,560

480 x 2 = 960; 300 x 2 = 600. Therefore 960 + 600 = 1,560

We did discuss why some approaches might not work and why, but it was done respectfully and carefully. Therefore, students understood their misconceptions in a real way and felt confident to learn from their mistakes without feeling criticized. Many students, like Amy in the story, thought we could add 300 to 480. After student discussion we read pages 14-15 in which the students in the story discuss their misunderstandings, what the correct answer is and, more importantly, how they came to discover the right answer.
After our discussion, we read to discover the answer to the problem.

We discovered that adding 300 + 480 only provided shelving for two walls and not four. That was a big “a ha!” moment for a good number of students, but once they got it, they changed their dry erase boards and I checked for understanding and accuracy in mathematics, as some students used an appropriate mathematics process but got the wrong answer because of math mistakes. We corrected those as well. Again, I recorded most of the information on the Smart Board.

After processing and discovering the various appropriate processes to get the correct answer, the students then entered into the technological aspect of the unit. Each student used Microsoft Word to record his or her own approach to solving the perimeter problem. Although students were part of a group, this is where each student became responsible for his or her own learning and demonstrated that learning to me.

Students had to use Word to draw a diagram of the dojo and label the length and width of the sides. They also had to list all of their group members and their grade level teacher. Each student bolded his or her name so I knew who I was grading. As students already completed their mathematics, we then used Microsoft Excel (inside of Microsoft Word) to add up each of the four walls. Therefore, students were not only using new technology but also mimicked their mathematics approach a second time. If I saw discrepancies, in any student’s demonstrated approaches, I could asses that the student may not have mastered the skill.

Each student was graded on two aspects: group participation and his or her final printed document. This allowed me to grade students individually even though the majority of their work was done in cooperative groups. It also allowed me to see those students who may not have understood the basic mathematics concepts as they had to duplicate their process on their document.

Each group was heterogeneous in reading level and gender. I encouraged discussion among groups so students who understood the mathematics processes taught the students who did not. I also created a video tutorial explaining how to create the document. Those students who were ahead of the class, could teach themselves and work at their own pace without being held up by other students.

It is important to show students how to incorporate technology and the learning in their grade level classroom. Students could easily see how they might need to understand perimeter, addition, multiplication and use Microsoft Word and Excel for real world applications. While I might not recommend MANGA MATH MYSTERIES for enjoyment reading for most students, I found it very applicable and engaging to teach required curricula in the classroom.

Author: Melinda Thielbar
Illustrator: Yoko Ota
Publisher: Lerner’s Graphic Universe

Publisher’s Recommended Reading Level: Grade 3
Publisher’s Recommended Interest Level: Grades 3-5

ATOS Quiz No.: 131131
ATOS AR Points: 0.50
ATOS: 3.20
Guided Reading: P
Lexile Level: 480

Format: Library binding
Pages: 48
Color: Full color
ISBN-13: 978-0-7613-3855-0
Dewey: 741.5’973

There is an AR Quiz associated with this book. It is listed above. THE SECRET GHOST is also available as a paperback and an e-book. I would consider purchasing the ebook and having students read the book at their own computers.

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