How Much Is A Million?
We can probably envision hundreds of things in our daily lives that come in groups of 100 or 1,000 like one hundred dollar bills, the number of days in school, the cost of the weekly grocery bill, our monthly rent, or mortgage payment. However, it can be difficult to envision numbers in the hundreds of thousands or millions that we as adults interact with regularly- the price of a home, maybe, but what large numbers do students interact with on the regular basis?
We might hear about millions of people, but can we envision what a million people look like? Have you ever personally experienced millions of people? Have you ever held a million dollars or close to a million in your hands? Yet, these are the very numbers fourth-grade students must conceive of and manipulate in the first few days of fourth grade.
What does a 10,000, 100,000, 1,000,000 look like in real-life? I am not saying fourth-graders should not grapple with large numbers. They absolutely should. However, students can benefit from the use of context when working with large numbers. Activities like “The 100 Days” of School and representing 100, tend to stop at amounts up to 100 in the first grade. We can continue to build on this idea.
Tapping into the power of our base-ten number system is one way.
If every kindergarten student in Ms. May’s class brings in a “One Hundred Day” poster with 100 Cheerios, how many Cheerios will we have?
If every kindergarten student in the school brought in a “One Hundred Day” poster, how many Cheerios would we have in the school?
If every student, in every grade brought in a “One Hundred Day” poster of Cheerios, how many Cheerios would we have?