Grade: Elementary
Subject: Mathematics

Teachers.Net Lesson Plans

#143. Multicultural COWs

Mathematics, level: Elementary
Posted by Craig Yager (
Whittier Elementary, Boulder, Colorado
Materials Required: varies
Activity Time: two weeks per COW
Concepts Taught: problem solving

First Nine-Week HP Mentor Proposal: MULTICULTURAL COWs
Submitted: July 24, 1997 ~ Author: Craig Yager (

Title: Multicultural Math COWs via Literature

Objectives: Students will attempt to solve COWs (Challenge of the Week) through dialogue
with HP Mentors. These COWs grow from multicultural literature.

Students and HP Mentors will use the Internet to track down multicultural
literature in creating original COWs.

Duration: Bi-weekly throughout the school year.
Grade Level: 5th
Curriculum Areas: Math/Language Arts/Technology/Social Studies

Deliverables: A five-part write-up for each COW.

An original COW accompanied by a piece of multicultural literature as
a starting point; one solution.

Description: In Rusty Bresser's book, MATH & LITERATURE, he suggests 20 books and
possible ways to explore the mathematics embedded. Malba Tahan, a Brazilian
mathematician who wrote a clever collection of tales, THE MAN WHO
COUNTED about an Iraqi sage, offers a prime example of math-rich literature.

Deliverables: The 5 parts of a COW are:
- a restatement of the problem
- a description of process
- answers, partial solutions, and deadends, wild ideas
- creation of an original COW of similar topic or genre
- evaluation of the COW; and, self-evaluation of student work

The original COW is a framework that allows others to solve a challenge.
In this case, it is mathematical and based on a piece of literature from another
world culture.

School contact's role: Provide the bi-weekly COWs and literature for the students and
HP Mentors to explore together. Give feedback to both the student HP Mentor about
the work submitted. Give feedback about the original COW and literature presented
by the team of student & HP Mentor.

Mentor's role: Respond to student thinking in solving the COWs. Provide hints and
suggestions. Extend student thinking beyond the minimum challenges.

Help the student create a new COW based on the biweekly model; finding
math-rich, multicultural literature via the Internet. Critique the student write-up and
solution of the new COW.

Adaptations: Simplify the problems so that they could be used with 2nd or 3rd grade

Enrichment: Students use their original COWs to teach a class to other students.

Other: A book of original multicultural COWs will be printed for use by future classes; it
may be offered through the Whittier Website.

Author: Craig Yager (