Meet the Farmer and Strawberry Math
This year, the strawberries were out early due to the mild winter. The season is over, but raspberries, blackberries and blueberries as well as cherries are ripe now!
We had so much fun meeting up to learn about strawberries and even more fun picking and tasting them. Before we met, I did a little research and discovered some shocking truths about strawberries. Namely, that the fruit is not actually a berry at all, but is considered an aggregate accessory fruit!! Check out the info sheet I created if you would like more interesting information about straw-“berries”.
After we warmed up with counting by ones to ten, we then practiced counting by tens to one hundred, then two hundred. This was to prepare the older kids for counting ALL the berries they picked so they could solve the math challenge. The challenge was to figure out how much ONE BERRY cost them that day. See the worksheet above for the question.
After we talked for a bit, our special guest, Farmer Green of Green Truck Farms arrived. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy day to answer questions posed by our aspiring young farmers. Mr. Green told us about how each of the berry varieties on his farm grew from runners from the previous year and thus were all genetically identical. He did not grow them from seed. We also learned how he keeps the plants warm when there is a chance of frost by covering them with giant plastic sheets. The kids asked a lot of great questions and seemed genuinely excited to be talking to a real farmer.
At the end, everyone got a chance to pick their own “berries.” When we got home, my daughter and I talked through the math problem and used an estimate of the number of strawberries we picked. We divided the dollar amount we paid by the number of strawberries we picked to find out how much we paid for ONE strawberry. It came out to 17 cents. The worksheet provides a follow up question, which you can use to talk about how (fractions or) rates represent a relationship between the two factors. If the strawberries are larger, but still cost the same amount, then you will pay more for each strawberry. What happens if the price per pound changes? If you know the number of pounds you bought, you can recalculate the total you paid using the new price and see how that affects the price per berry.
Before the kids were let loose in the fields, we met and talked about strawberries. By preparing them with a few facts, I helped focus their attention on some aspects of the plant that they may not have noticed or experienced that day. I brought a piece of a rose bush to show them the leaves so they could see how the strawberry plant is related to the rose family. I also mentioned some of the bugs that like to eat the plant, in case we didn’t get to see them in person. Seeing for themselves how the strawberry grows and changes colors as it ripens is an excellent way for the kids to learn about the life cycle of one type of plant. Adding some additional information to the experience only serves to deepen their understanding of what they are seeing.
Rather than think of this math problem as a learning activity for my daughter through which she should learn how to solve similar problems, I thought of it as mathematics modeling. Just as we model reading and writing to our children, we should also model how we use math and science every day. Knowing that it is possible to find the answer to a question like “how much does one strawberry cost?” is an important piece of my daughter’s math understanding. The computation skills will come in time.
Clay Modeling for Extended Learning
After the field trip, we used modeling clay to attempt to create a strawberry, showing the various physical features that we had learned about. The tiny fruit (achene) were difficult to create, but an excellent practice for fine motor skills.
This time-lapse video shows the life-cycle of a strawberry plant very nicely: Growth of a Strawberry
And this silly song included some of the shocking facts about strawberries that I shared with the group: Strawberry Song
We hope you’ll join us for the Lavender Farm experience coming up this week: Lavender Farm Meet Up