Top image: Mars (photo by Let’s Talk Science).
Setting the Stage
Names are an important part of our identity. They are part of what makes each of us unique. Students often have opportunities to find out the meaning of their names, why they were given their names, and to discuss how they feel about their names. This inquiry will provide students with opportunities to explore their names through a different lens using the skills of mathematics and science and technology.
This inquiry could begin from:
Materials and Preparation (Click to Expand)
Scrabble tiles
Source: Let's Talk Science
Materials:
 multiple sets of numbered letter tiles (similar to Scrabble tiles)
 linking cubes, enough for each student to have 2025 cubes (Note: it is important that the cubes link from all sides)
 graph paper
Preparation:
 Copy (on cardstock or cardboard) and cut apart numbered letter tiles. You will need to determine how many of each letter will be needed based on the names of students in your class.
 Collect linking cubes. Make sets of 2025 cubes ahead, or let students count them out themselves.
 Make copies of the graph paper, at least 1 per student
What To Do
My Initial
Source: Let's Talk Science
Students develop the skills of algebraic reasoning, communicating, and visualization as they learn about the mathematics and science and technology in their names.
Students:
 use the numbered letter tiles to create their first names.
 notice and name the mathematics in their names (e.g., numbers that appear more than once, total of the numbers in their names, comparing number of letters to total of the tiles, stories that can be made using the numbers in their names, patterns in the numbers).
 Educator observes and documents, including students’ observations, questions, and wonderings for use in the development of further learning through inquiry.
 Educator notices and names other mathematical ideas by asking questions such as, “Which letters in your name are made up of only straight lines? Which letters in your name have curved surfaces? Which ones have circles? Which letters are symmetrical?”
 use the graph paper as a guide to visualize how they would make the first initial with linking cubes (2025).
 sketch out their initial on the graph paper as they visualized it.
 build their initial with linking cubes in such a way that it stands up by itself (is stable).
 Educator observes, documents, and facilitates as necessary, asking questions such as “Why are some letters more stable than others?Whatdid you have to do to make the unstable letters more stable? How did that change your vision of what your initial would look like?”
Assessment
Observe and document, using anecdotal comments, photos and/or video recordings, student’s ability to:
 Algebraic Reasoning  students notice and name the mathematics when creating their name using numbered letter tiles (e.g., “My name has four letters. Two Ls and two Is. There’s a pattern in the letters – Lili .”; “The letters in my name add up to 4. They always make 4 no matter what number story I make.” (e.g., 3+1=4; 1+1+1+1=4; 2+2=4)
 Spatial Sense/Reasoning – students create, retain, and retrieve a visualization of their name created with linking cubes, then sketch their visualization on graph paper
 Communicating – students use appropriate language when talking about the mathematics and science and technology in their names (e.g., “My initial wouldn’t stand up. I had to take it apart and make the bottom wider so it would be stable. So my initial looks smaller than my sketch on the grid paper. I would need more cubes to make it exactly the same as my sketch.”)
Coconstructing Learning

Students Saying, Doing, Representing

Educator Interactions: Responding, Challenging

Students use the numbered letter tiles to create their first names, and notice and name the mathematics in their names.

 “I notice that you made some number stories with the numbers from your name. How did you decide what number to start with?”
 “You found a pattern in numbers in your name. Describe the pattern for me.”
 “You have a long name. Which numbers appeared more than once? Which numbers only appear once?”
 “How else can you show the mathematics in your name?” (e.g., in a concrete graph made with centicubes, as the core of a pattern such as Lili = ABAB)

Students visualize their first initial as it would appear using linking cubes (2025) and use the graph paper to sketch out their visualization.

 “A conjecture in mathematics is a guess that you make without much information. When you visualize your initial in cubes, what is your conjecture about how many cubes you will need to make it – will you have enough or will you have some left over?”
 “You checked out your conjecture with your sketch, you will not have enough cubes to make your initial. How can you modify your sketch so you only use 25 cubes?”

Students make their initials with linking cubes, constructing them so that they stand up on their own (stable).

 “What were some of the challenges of making your initial with the linking cubes?”
 “Did you have to change your initial to make it stable? Why do you think that was the case? How did you make it stable? How did that change your initial from how you visualized it?”

CrossCurricular Connections
Literacy
 communicate ideas and information orally (e.g., share challenges of making their name stable; talk about how the patterns and numbers in their name are the same and/or different from others)
Mathematics
 represent mathematical ideas using concrete materials, pictures, diagrams, graphs, tables, numbers, words, and symbols (e.g., show understanding of commutative property by showing that no matter what order they add them in, the numbers in their name always add up to the same total)
Extending the Learning
If your students are interested in learning more, the following may provoke their curiosity:
 Provide opportunities for students to collect and display data about their names. For example, students could collect data that looks at:
 which letters are used the most, the least or not at all and graph the results;
 names that used the most tiles and the least tiles, and compare the number of tiles to total of the numbers on the tiles (e.g., a shorter name may use letters with higher values and thus have a larger total than a longer name with lowervalued letters)
 Provide opportunities for students to repeat the inquiry using their middle or last initials. Discuss using questions such as:
 “Do you predict you will need more cubes or fewer cubes to do your middle initial? Why do you think that?”
 “What did you learn from doing your first initial that will help you this time (e.g., “I need my sketch to show how I will make my initial stable”; “I will make my last initial smaller than I made my first initial because it will be easier to build.”)
 Visualization is an important skill for engineers to have. Discuss with students why this would be an important skill for engineers. Where might students use visualization? (e.g., when creating a sequence of moves in the gym; when planning materials that will be needed to create scenery for a puppet play)