Kingsville Elementary students do “moon math” with NASA scientist

Greta Salvo and Olivia Heckel measuring armspans 

Kingsville Elementary School grade 5 students recently spent two math periods participating in a web-conference with a scientist from NASA.

The students, all in teacher Patricia Belcastro's math class, have been learning about indirect measurement. Using Elluminate (a web conferencing product), the students interacted with Dr. Marci Delanney, who works in the Office of Education at NASA Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Md. and is on the University of Maryland faculty.

In their “Moon Math” sessions, conducted with assistance from technology integration teacher Susan Fleming, the students and scientist used measurement activities to determine whether a space shuttle would be able to land inside a crater on the moon.  

Dimitri Kakaris at the microphone, seated in the back is Brett Sutton
Student Sean Letts at the microphone with tech teacher Susan Fleming
Students using shoes as measurement tools

The sessions began with students discussing with Dr. Delanney how they use measurement in their daily lives. They discussed different non-standard and standard units of measurement, and then they measured the classroom and the perimeter of their desks. Calculations were completed to discover the range of error in their measuring.

Then using a picture of the moon, each student measured the diameter of a crater and the diameter of the moon, as shown in his or her picture. They used ratios to compare their pictures’ measurements to the actual diameter of the moon and formed proportions to find the actual diameter of the crater on their pictures. The students used two strategies they learned in class and found the actual diameter of the crater.   

After discussing and making comparisons of distances, it was determined that a rocket could land in a crater. The students quickly took to using the microphone to converse with Dr. Delanney.  They were especially astounded by how huge craters on the moon really are.

Story by Susan Fleming, technology integration teacher, Kingsville Elementary School. Photos courtesy of Kingsville Elementary School.  
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