PILES (Area vs. Perimeter): Sorting Activity for Math Talk (Grades 3-5)

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Beyond Traditional Math
Grade Levels
2nd - 5th
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
26 pages
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Beyond Traditional Math


This resource is here to help students engage in math talk, practice for the SBAC, PARCC or other standardized tests, and to work through the Standards for Mathematical Practice. In this activity, students cut out and find the star "anchor" cards. Then, they put the rest of the cards into piles that match the anchor card. There may not always be the same number of cards in every pile. Take a peek at the preview to try one for yourself!

Reasons you may want to try out Piles:

1. Students do NOT understand the Equal Sign. They think it means “the answer is”. This activity will totally challenge that thinking.

2. Students are used to having a pair in a matching game/activity. This mentality won’t work for Piles. They won’t always make a pair, sometimes their pile may have 3 or even 4 cards.

3. For years I’ve watched students thinking that the visual model, number sentence and words are separate things in mathematics. Piles will help connect this for them.

This will get them talking! Even your struggling students will start talking about why things fit together, and why they absolutely do not.

4. The activity can be done independently alongside your teaching.

5. You will uncover, and squash all KINDS of misconceptions that you didn’t even know existed.

What age group is this for?

This would be most appropriate for students beginning to learn about area and perimeter, late second graders needing a challenge, third graders, and 4th grade students as the puzzles become more difficult. This would also be appropriate for 5th grade intervention.

Why work on equality activities?

So many students misunderstand what the equal sign means. A big misconception is that the equal sign means “the answer is”, when in reality it means something more like “is the same as” or “the same amount as”. Fixing this misconception at an early age will be beneficial in higher level mathematics.

In addition, the Standards for Mathematical Practice put a focus on the thinking processes of students. There is also some pretty strong research suggesting that students should be engaged in math talk for at least 60% of your math lesson. Giving students these tasks allows them to form their own thoughts, and then work with a team to defend their thinking. If you make it a regular part of your classroom routine (once a week or every other week) students will become more comfortable with math talk. The puzzles are also fantastic problem solving, critical thinking and deduction activities. This is also a wonderful test prep activity since the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments are heavy with problems in which students are asked to think flexibly.

How long does this activity last?

Depending on the ability level of your students, each individual activity can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes (the later puzzles take much longer). In this resource, there are 10 total puzzles with 12 cards to “match” into piles.

How do I assess this project?

You can assess what the students do individually if you have them create their own piles. If you pull together small groups, you could also assess students on their group work skills and level of participation in their group.

How and when do you use this problem type in class?

There are many ways you can use this activity:

 Fast finisher activity

 Morning work

 Intervention block activity

 Small group work

 Homework for students

 Gifted and talented small groups

 Whole class activity

 Parent volunteers can work one on one

 Center activity

Included in this resource:

 Information for the teacher pages: CCSS alignment, and a sample lesson plan.

 10 puzzles, and 10 answer keys: the puzzles cover area and perimeter in creative ways

These puzzles are challenging, and fun! If you have any questions, or find any problems with your purchase, please contact me as soon as possible so that I may fix any errors.

If you like this activity, try out my reasoning puzzles:

Reasoning Puzzles: Activities to Engage in Math Talk

Total Pages
26 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
2 Weeks
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