Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

How We Learn: Making Fidget Spinners

June 1, 2017

Eric Crouch fidget spinners 1000w

WHERE: Double Churches Elementary School in Columbus, Georgia

WHO: The fifth-grade class of Eric Crouch (GA '16)

WHAT THEY'RE DOING: Making "fidget spinners," the toy of the moment. The class worked on the project over three days in 45-minute blocks.

The first day was for design: Kids analyzed an actual spinner to figure out how it looks and works, then made paper templates. They tried spinning them—with limited success given the lack of ball bearings. They moved on to wooden ice pop sticks, toothpicks and thumbtacks, making predictions, recording their observations and plotting the data on a line graph.

On the second day, students got two washers and a spacer ($0.30 per kid) and modified their designs based on the previous day's data, with the goal of getting their spinners to turn for a specified period of time. They tested their models, chose final designs and took them all for a spin (sorry, pun intended) in front of the class. Eric and his students plotted all the results and looked for patterns, then used that data to tweak the spinners on the final day.

Once the student completed their designs, they wrote about their spinners, including what they liked, didn't like, and could have done differently with additional resources.

WHY: "This project fits in so many components of math—it's insane," says Eric. "My main goal is always to look at things from a different angle and to do projects I would have liked when I was a student." While fidget spinners are driving teachers across the country crazy, Eric used his students' excitement to get them engaged in math: "Any teacher can ban fidget spinners or collect them, but if kids are excited about them, why not use that to your advantage?"

"How We Learn" is an occasional series in Connections featuring our Milken Educators and their students in action. Milken Educators, got a snapshot of an interesting learning activity? Send it to web editor Erika Kerekes, ekerekes@mff.org. Photo above by Eric Crouch.

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