Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 10:17:30 -0600 (CST)

Name: ck
Who is asking: Student
Level: Elementary

Hello. I need a lesson plan for grades 4 to 7 dealing with the concept of large numbers. Specifically, how to teach scientific notation. The lesson plan has to deal with the following: the size of the universe is so huge that is is almost beyond the ability of the mind to comprehend. One way is to measure astronomical distances not in miles but rather in "light years"(the distance light travels in a year). The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Determine length of a light year. The answer would be a very large number in the calculator that would read 5.8697 12. How could I devise a lesson plan to teach children a way to represent this large number without counting all the zeros using exponents. For example: 34,000 = 34 X 1000 and 3.4 X 10 X 1,000 which can be further simplified to 3.4 X 10,000. Now we can substitute 10 to the 5th power for 10,000 and we have 3.4 X 10 to the 5th power. This method is called scientific notation. How can I create a fun, interactive lesson plan to 4-6 graders using the above problem? Help!!!

I don't have a lesson plan for you or even anything about scientific notation but I do have a reference to a lovely essay about a kindergarten class discussing the number of raindrops in a rain storm. The essay is, "New Names for Old", by Edward Kasner and James R. Newman. It was originally in their book MATHEMATICS AND THE IMAGINATION, but can also be found in Newman's 4-volume book THE WORLD OF MATHEMATICS (vol. 3, pages 2006-2010). The essay also describes the need to consider very large numbers and some work done with small children in which they invent the word "googol" for the number which is a 1 followed by a hundred zeros.
   If you can locate this essay I am sure you will find it enjoyable and maybe it will give you some ideas for lessons.


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