Who’s Older? Washington or Lincoln?

I was sitting with a small group of 3rd graders, working on a Math word problem.

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 and died on December 14, 1799. Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 and died on April 15, 1865. Who lived a longer life, George or Abraham? How many years longer?

After discussing all the steps – like how to figuring out how old George is and how old  Abraham is, and then comparing the two ages to find the difference in their ages, we set to work to solve the math. As we computed, we chatted.

Student 1 – I got George – he lived 67 years.

Student 2 – I got Abraham – he only lived to be 56 years.

I thought to myself, 56…that’s just four years longer than I am right now. My thoughts wondered to what I’ve accomplished in my 52 years compared to all that Lincoln accomplished in his fifty-some years.

Student 1 – I would have thought Abraham would live longer because in his lifetime, they had better medicine than they did during the 1700s.

I thought, good point. I like how he is seeing more than just the math in this problem.

Student 2: But he was shot and killed.

I thought, good point!! I wish I had made it.


5 thoughts on “Who’s Older? Washington or Lincoln?

  1. Erika Victor says:

    I love how you documented all of their dialogue along with your thinking! It is geat to get truly inside our students’ minds (and great when they make all the connections)!


  2. Adrienne says:

    What a rich conversation. It just goes to show you the importance of talk. It might not all have been directly about the Math problem, but it was definitely thoughtful and interesting. I’m 51 and my oldest sister is 67, and my mind wandered to the same places yours did. And then I thought, we might not be making changes on the national scale that Washington and Lincoln did, but, as teachers, we make those changes on a small, individual scale daily.


  3. jarhartz says:

    Such a thoughtful group of kiddos. Pulling together all kinds of relevant ideas with a simple math problem. Love how we humans take in the world and how it changes with our own perspective. Lovely snapshot of how your students think!


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