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Eye Spy MATH in American Memory The Learning Page

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The Library of Congress’ Collections are full of primary source images and documents that can be used to enhance the teaching of math!

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Getting Started Brainstorm math words to use as search terms. Encourage students to think about words describing shapes (octagon, triangle, pentagon, cylinder, square), large numbers (thousand, million), measurement devices (abacus, ruler, scale, calculator), and mathematical terms (intersect, parallel, circumference, diameter). Hunt for images across the American Memory Collections using these terms.

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You will find hundreds of wonderful images and documents to choose from…

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Giant wheels ten feet in diameter, once used for carrying logs to sawmill. Michigan (1936 photograph)

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If you can’t go – buy war bonds: Our bonds are their security!! (1940s poster)

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Colville men on horseback ride around inside circle of tipis on July 4 th, Nespelem, Colville Indian Reservation, Washington. (1905)

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Yellow Owl – Mandan…Description by Edward S. Curtis: A face approaching the type of pure Mandan. The neck ornament consists of beads and cylindrical bones, and from the eagle-feather war- bonnet hang numerous weasel-tails. (1909 photogravure)

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Three men seated at table with checkerboards, spectators looking on (1941 photograph)

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We’ve a million in the field, 1,000,000 (1862 sheet music)

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War Department. Pentagon, aerial view I. ( photograph)

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New York, New York. Chinaman counting on an abacus in a Chinese grocery store in Chinatown (1942 photograph)

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Row of automobiles parked perpendicular to two other rows of automobiles on a rooftop parking lot (1928 photograph)

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The corner is squared and reinforcement nailed over joints. Screen door construction demonstration. Charles County, La Plata, Maryland. (1941 photograph)

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What’s next? Have your students create “Eye Spy” type questions to go along with each image.

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I spy men playing a game with circles and squares. What game are they playing?

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I spy a necklace made of white cylindrical beads. How many cylindrical beads can you count?

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I spy a poster that has two graphs. What does it ask you to buy?

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I spy a man calculating with a special device. What is it called?

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I spy a number equal to 1000 thousand written two different ways on this song sheet. What is the number?

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Conduct the “Eye Spy” Activity Print out and mount the images on construction paper. (Make sure to include the image title and summary on the back of the paper.) Display the mounted photos on a bulletin board or along a hallway. Give the class time to study the display. Have each student read his or her “Eye Spy” question aloud. Have class members try to be the first to find the correct matching image.

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Use your observation skills to create your own“Eye Spy” questions with these Washington, DC images!

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White House Grounds and Ellipse

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U.S.Capitol

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Or…. try your hand at writing a math word problem based on these documents with more text!

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Photo Button Manufacturing Company (page 3 from undated catalog)

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Public Sale (1858 broadside)

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Have fun and… …get started spying! Yerkes Observatory (1910)

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