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Conceptual understanding: The base 10 place value system extends indefinitely in

two directions.

Learning outcome: model numbers to millions or beyond using the base 10 place
value system.

Teacher provocation: How big is a billion?

Students will experiment with value.
Students will use real-world models to demonstrate a tactile awareness of how big a
billion actually is.

Students have prior understanding of place value
Teacher sets up student groups, differentiated into mixed levels of readiness (math, art,
naturalistic intelligences)


1. On board: for this task, you will need

a. social skills for group work
b. learner profile: inquiry, creativity
c. thinking skills
i. spatial awareness
ii. logical-mathematical
iii. application

2. Teacher models the task. Records how many steps it takes to cross the classroom
(about 8, in this case). Divides 1 billion by 7 (125,000,000). So I would need to walk
across 125,000,000 classrooms to walk one billion steps! What would that many
classrooms look like?

3. Teacher plays with the numbers a bit more (e.g. In a school our size, it would take 5
million schools to hold 125,000,000 classrooms. Thats more schools than we have
on the whole planet!) Encourage students to suggest other ways to apply the
numbers to the physical world. Suggestions on the board.

4. Now its your turn. Find a way to show a billion. Create a poster that shows your
ideas, your methods, your results.

5. Students into pre-arranged groups. Reminder of teamwork expectations.

6. In groups:
a. plan how 1 billion will be modeled
b. designate tasks within groups (e.g. calculator, scribe, layout, artist, fonts,
presentation, other?)
c. set to work! (40 mins)
d. present your findings (3-5 min per group)

7. Teacher as guide on side, rotating amongst groups, guiding on teamwork, ensuring

all students engaged with task.

8. Groups present.

9. Connection to tomorrows lesson.


I was surprised at the wide variety of ideas students came up with. At no point would I
have considered measuring the time it would take an actual turtle (courtesy our partner
grade 6 class) to waddle a set distance.

Engaging? Students took right to the task and created models that interested them.
They were truly wowed to find out how many seconds, meters, etc were required to add
up to one billion.

Relevant and significant? Applying math to the real world gave students a chance to
see math outside of the classroom. Billion is a number we see in the news, but dont
really think about. Having a visual/spatial idea of this value adds significance to billion.

Challenging? Because of the mixed ability groups, each student had a task that used
their particular talents. Because they were working with a number they dont ordinarily
grapple with, all students, no matter their role in the group, had to expand their thinking
beyond more comfortable values with fewer digits.

Student exemplars: