Introduction: The Four Fours project is a collaborative activity that stresses problem solving and critical thinking as applied to order of operations problems.

Timing: This activity requires 90-120 minutes of class time to complete. Break it up over two, maybe three periods. Some of the project can be assigned for homework. Getting the math component done in class will allow students to focus on the creative component at home and will reduce the chance that students will get too far off base with the mathematical side of the project.

Group Size: Groups of 3 or 4

Learning Objectives: The objective of this activity is to:

a) Review order of operations

b) Develop problem solving and critical thinking skills

c) Integrate a creative component into a traditional math lesson

Guiding Questions: How can you use order of operations to manipulate four fours to produce a desired result?

Materials: The provided graph paper, markers, colored pencils, and other random art supplies. Photocopy enough activity sheets for each student.


Read through the opening sections as a class. Students should feel comfortable with the example calculation and understand that the grouping symbol (addition within the parenthesis) must be completed first, followed by the multiplication, and finally by the addition. Cover the advanced operations and leave the solved values on the board. Once students feel comfortable with the mathematical side of the project, have them split up their number and get started. Student will inadvertently discover other group member’s numbers. It can be really tough to get all 40, so I usually let it slide. Many students will need continued support. It can be tricky when they get down to their last couple.

Focus on the art component the following day. I typically won’t give out the art supplies until they are 3/4th of their numbers done and an initial outline of their poster. Students can present their four fours in a variety of ways. I have had posters range from The Four Four’s Matrix, with the number streaming like the opening of the movie, to pop-out fish with the four fours written on each fish. Try and keep the poster size standard if you want to post them around the room after completion. The years where it wasn’t standardized, I received enormous projects along with mini ones.

Students must recordtheir four fours on the table provided. This is where their four fours will actually graded for correctness. The poster will only be assessed for creativity and neatness.

Make sure student understand the use of the rubric and know that they must score themselves before the project is turned it. The extra point is given with the idea that if anyone matches my score, they must of used the rubric properly. The same goes for taking the point. If they over-scored themselves by four points, they probably did not follow the rubric.

The group grader can be used if students feel like that one or two members did not participate fully.

If there is available time, I typically allow groups to present their posters to the class.

Groups should only turn in one of their activity sheets with the actual project.

Assessment: Each group’s four fours should be graded based on the rubric included in the activity sheet. I score to the half point with the rubric.

Answer Key: Each group’s four fours will be different, so an answer key would be of no use.

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