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Building an eco-house

This is a level (2+ to 3+) mathematics in science contexts activity from the Figure It Out series. A PDF of the student activity is included.

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  • AudienceKaiako
  • Resource LanguageEnglish
  • Resource typeActivity
  • SeriesFigure It Out

About this resource

Figure It Out is a series of 80 books published between 1999 and 2009 to support teaching and learning in New Zealand classrooms.

This resource provides the teachers' notes and answers for one activity from the Figure It Out series. A printable PDF of the student activity can be downloaded from the materials that come with this resource.

Specific learning outcomes:

  • Add and subtract whole numbers.
  • Students will discover that to win, the sum of the squares they land on must be greater than or equal to zero.

Building an eco-house

Achievement objectives

NA2-1: Use simple additive strategies with whole numbers and fractions.

Required materials

  • Figure It Out, Sustainability, Levels 2+–3+, "Building an eco-house", page 21
  • a dice
  • 3 counters
  • 2 classmates

See Materials that come with this resource to download:

  • Building an eco-house activity (.pdf)




Points of entry: Mathematics

As students play, ask them to think metacognitively (think about their thinking). Ask:

  • What strategies are you using to add or subtract after each square?
  • Which numbers are easier to add or subtract?

Check that your students know what to do if they end up in the negative numbers. For example, ask:

  • What would happen if you had no points and landed on square 28?

They do not need formal knowledge of integers (which are introduced in level 4); all they need is a way of keeping a tally of what they "owe" if they lose all their "credit".

Remind students about fair dice rolls. They should all have an equal probability of landing on any square.

Points of entry: Science

Ask students why some squares are positive (gain points) and others are negative (lose points). Ask them to judge whether the "punishment fits the crime". In other words,

  • Are the points value a good measure of the environmental impact? Another way of putting this is: Why might buying iron for a roof be worse than buying straw for insulation?
  • Why does buying straw for insulation lose points? [It still costs money to buy.]
  • Why does draining a swampy area lose points? [It can destroy the wetland environment that wildlife depends on.]
  • Why does planting native tree seedlings collect lots of points?

Students can identify which penalties seem the fairest and justify them. For example,

  • Should putting compost in a garden be worth fewer points than giving a talk on eco-houses?

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