Decimals and place values and tubers, oh my!

by Habersham County FoodCorps Service Member Susie Burton

Oh the joys of coming back to school–especially schools where gardens are thriving and abounding with produce!  Thanks to the hard work of the Cornelia Elementary 5th grade teachers and students, CES’ garden continues to boom with cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, and sweet potatoes.

This week, the 5th graders harvested some of the sweet potatoes, and math and science teacher Holly Skinner and I decided to put those beautiful tubers to work.  We designed a math lesson in which students weighed their sweet potatoes and practiced adding and subtracting decimal numbers using those weights.

In the course of this lesson, students learned, reviewed, or practiced:

  • what root vegetables are
  • what tubers are and why plants use them
  • using a place-value chart
  • concepts behind the base 10 system
  • two different methods of adding and subtracting decimals
  • re-grouping and carrying when adding/subtracting multi-digit numbers
  • working as a team
  • the importance of accurate documentation in scientific work
  • using the metric scale
  • reading a scale

Not too shabby for an hour’s worth of instruction time, eh?


Two students deliberate the weight of a sweet potato


Student-created place value charts—-practicing our scientific habits of mind by keeping good records


Mrs. Skinner guiding students through an example—-look at that laser student focus!


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