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Making beanies

Achievement Objectives:

Achievement Objective: GM3-1: Use linear scales and whole numbers of metric units for length, area, volume and capacity, weight (mass), angle, temperature, and time.
AO elaboration and other teaching resources
Achievement Objective: NA3-1: Use a range of additive and simple multiplicative strategies with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percentages.
AO elaboration and other teaching resources


This video story describes the fraction and decimal understanding that develops as students measure and problem solve to make their own polar fleece beanies.









For two weeks in Ngaio and Te Kouka we had been doing problem solving using the problems from the nzmaths site.

We wanted to find a meaningful context in which to practise and develop their problem solving skills. We had the idea of making polar fleece beanies, because polar fleece was only four dollars a metre.

We had mixed ability groups and we had a stronger maths person in each group to help support the groups.

We created a set of problems that would be relevant to the making of the beanies.

Some of the problems involved fractions and doubling and halving, and the children had to calculate costs with money.

We found that we had a lot of work to do with decimals, a lot of work to do with measuring accurately.


The children enjoyed the practical side of making the beanies:

The students worked in their groups to measure their heads. Once they recorded their head measurements they had the added problem solving activity of finding the average head within their group. We had had a class session on revising how to find averages.

The next thing that they had to do was to make the pattern. The students measured out and ruled onto newsprint their pattern which was half of their head measurement (so that was an added problem that they had to solve) plus 1.5 (which was the seam allowance), by 50 centimetres.

At this stage we did some extra teaching around measuring accurately and finding and adding tenths.

The pattern was placed onto the polar fleece and cut out. Once that was done they placed the long edges together, right sides together, and made a mark 12 centimetres up from the bottom. This was to make the fold of the beanie.

The students were given a quick lesson on threading a needle, tying a knot, and sewing. They had to sew from the top down to the mark. Then they made a small cut. They turned the beanie so that the wrong sides were together and sewed up from the bottom to the mark.

The top of the beanie was then designed. Some students had the top shaped and sewn, some cut down and tied the top. The finishing touches were put onto the beanies.


The students worked in group books and recorded all the strategies they used for the problems. Reflections were shared and recorded in their groups and as a class.


We knew where we wanted to go and the processes that we wanted the students to go through. We followed the problem solving process from the nzmaths site. We planned our problems around the making of the beanies and we changed these and adapted them as the needs arose.

Here is an example of the problems that we created for the beanies. For example we found that the children needed extra practice with measurement and adding of decimals so we made up a problem around soft toys.


The students definitely need exposure to problem solving before going into this, so having the two weeks prior to the actual beanie making about problem solving strategies and what to do made it easier when it came to the problem solving around the beanies. One of the problems that we had was that the more able students within the groups tend to dominate the problem solving.

This was a really valuable unit, and any advice that we can give you, would be having small groups for management and having a teacher aide or possibly parents coming in for support cutting out and sewing.

I would have spent a wee bit longer teaching them how to sew. I had to bring in the overlocker and do some reinforcing of the seams.


This was an authentic and hands on experience that the children were totally involved in and couldn’t wait for each session each day.

We found having the mixed ability groups, that the more able students did support within the group and that students who were having difficulties learned really quickly from their peers rather than having us telling them what to do.

They were more motivated to listen to their peers, and participate, and so they built on their maths learning.

During the reflections, the children were able to identify where they needed to go next, and I think this is the first time I’ve really had this happen in my class with maths, they identified that they needed more work with decimals, they wanted to do work with fractions and they needed to do some work with multiplying and they were just totally engaged and I would recommend this to anyone.

We just think get in there, go for it and face the problems as they arise. It’s a really valuable unit.


Right click and choose 'Save As' to save a copy of this video to your computer (mp4, 32MB).

BeanieProblems.pdf266.88 KB
BeanieReflection.pdf5.79 KB
MakingBeanies.pdf152.58 KB