Using Clothespins in Math

18 October 2014
I admit - it all started with the little container.  I was walking though the aisles of the Dollar Store, and I couldn't resist this cute little container.  But a container can't stay empty for long.  Down the next aisle I spotted these cute little clothespins, and I knew they'd be perfect for the next day's math lesson.

We were studying fractions - comparing and ordering fractions, and they just weren't getting it.  I knew I wanted to do a number line activity, and realized these clothespins would make the perfect number line activity.

I bought small label stickers and wrote a variety of fractions on them, then stuck them to the clothespins.  I hung a string in the room, and we got to work.  Students worked in small groups to order the fractions they had (by drawing a picture representation and discussion), then placed their clothespins on the clothesline number line.  As each new group had the chance to hang their clothespins, they could "challenge" any of the pins they saw in incorrect locations and if the group agreed, they could move the pins.  Equivalent fractions could hang off of one another.

 It was a great hands-on lesson, but it wasn't the only way we used the pins.  A clothesline has two sides, so we wrote decimals on the other side so we could use them to compare and order decimals.  A little later in the year, we pulled them back out to work with fractions and probability.

So, a $2.00 purchase from the Dollar Store (container and a pack of clothespins) magically turned what could have been a boring topic, into a great hands-on math lesson ... actually, multiple lessons.  Just another reason to love the Dollar Store.  ;)

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  1. Oh I just love this!!!! What a smart idea!! I always use these little number cards that are such a pain to cut up...but the clothespins are great because they are so easy to move around. And I LOVE how you use the decimals on the other side! Thank you Jen, I am feeling inspired :) :)

  2. This is great, Jen! I did something similar a few years ago using the clothesline in the benchmarks lesson and the bucket as an exit ticket... But your bucket is way cuter than mine! I need to head to the dollar store, I think! :)

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  3. This post was featured in the 82nd Math Teachers at Play blog carnival. Thanks for writing a great post that teachers can benefit from! I hope this sends some extra traffic your way :)

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