Texas Mathematics Teacher Fall/Winter 2020 - 29

Math with Antlers
Adding and Subtracting Fractions, Mixed Numbers,
and Integers
Measurement is challenging and engaging at the same
time. Helping students record their mixed number
measurements is exceptionally beneficial in my classroom,
but exploring the addition and subtraction of these mixed
numbers through the scoring system is amazing.
When the students have completed the measurements
and are recording their lengths, they have to record their
fractions to the nearest one-eighth of an inch. The students
will often record measurements as ¼ of an inch or ½ of
an inch. I work with the students to create the equivalent
fractions as eighths. Students begin to see the relationship
between fractions and learn how one fraction can be
equivalent to another. For example, 11 3/4 is equivalent
to 11 6/8.
Students record all of the required measurements for
each antler using the scoring sheet, calculate totals, and
subtract differences to compute their final score. This part
of the activity becomes an excellent application of adding
and subtracting mixed numbers. Students are required
to add all the measures for the left antler (Column 1
in Figure 2), add all the measures for the right antler
(Column 2 in Figure 2), and add all of the differences
between the antler (Column 3 in Figure 2).
The final score for the trophy deer antlers is determined
by finding the total of Columns 1 and 2 and subtracting
the total differences in Column 3. I can take this
opportunity to explore the concept of symmetry that is
connected to the students' calculations of the differences
between the left and right antlers. If the differences were
all zero, then the antler rack would have no deductions
and therefore be considered perfectly symmetrical, as
long as the look and direction of the antlers on each side
were the same. Discussing symmetry would be an easy
extension to this activity focused on measurement and
fraction calculations.
Another extension to this activity can be done using any
abnormal points found on the Antler (see diagram in
Figure 2). Most of the antlers used in my classroom do not
have any abnormal points, so I do not use that part of the
scoring sheet, but other teachers could if they have some
antlers with measurable abnormal points.
I require students to do all of these calculations by hand
despite the availability of an online calculator for the
Boone and Crockett scoring system. Allowing students to
use this online form would take away from one purpose
of the lesson, that of operations with fractions, but the
online form could be used as a way for students to check
their work after they have calculated their score.

Conclusion
I have observed that students find this lesson interesting
and important, even for those who do not hunt. It allows
all to learn in a unique way-hands on! I believe a vital
part of teaching mathematics is to have activities that
allow students to actually work with the mathematics
they are being taught. Scoring a deer antler puts the
learning process in the hands of the student and allows
them to apply the concepts and objectives for themselves.
The intent of this activity and lesson is not to promote
hunting, because antlers can be purchased or even found
in the woods after deer shed their antlers annually.
Therefore, it is not necessary to harvest a deer to acquire
antlers. This activity is intended to sharpen a student's
skills of measuring while developing and strengthening
their understanding of fractions and integers. Once the
measuring portion of the lesson is complete, the antlers
can be put aside and the attention turned to operations
with fractions. I use this activity as a way to introduce
fractions to my sixth graders as we dive into the many
concepts fractions present-equivalency of fractions,
adding and subtracting fractions, and adding and
subtracting fractions and integers. By converting all
the fractions to have a common denominator of eight,
students learn about the role of the denominator and how
adding and subtracting fractions may be much easier.
Through this activity students are also able to see
at least one way mathematics is used in a real life
application close to home. This activity demonstrates
how mathematics governs the accuracy of scoring deer
antlers. A set of antlers cannot be correctly scored without
accurate, physical measurements and calculations using
fractions. Many of my students will never measure deer
antlers outside of my classroom, but they will measure
something that will likely require the use of a measuring
tape and knowledge of fractions at some point in their life.
Some may even enter a career that utilizes measuring or
fractions daily.
Providing an activity like this is one way to help students
see mathematics in everyday life. This lesson has
positively impacted my students' understanding of the
mathematical concepts and processes indicated in the
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) that I teach.
Additionally, the activity is fun. One day, a young person
from my class may return from a hunting trip and impress
their family by calculating its Boone and Crockett score.
More importantly, students in my class just might develop
a changed outlook on mathematics that says, "I can do
math," and start to believe that mathematics is useful,
important in life, and not that bad at all.

"This activity is intended to sharpen a student's
skills of measuring while developing and
strengthening their understanding of
fractions and integers.

"

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Texas Mathematics Teacher Fall/Winter 2020

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