What Percentage of Time Do You Spend Doing Daily Activities?
Engage your kids with an intriguing, reallife exploration that covers several areas in math, and allows for natural academic differentiation.
By Barry Nitikman
Posted
What percent of our time do we spend sleeping in a typical day? Doing homework? Traveling in a car? Eating? Arguing with Mom? Have your learners compute the data, then display their results on graphs they create by hand, or on Excelstyle graphs or charts. I prefer to have my students create these graphics on the computer (or on an iPad), but obviously this depends on available technology. This project is applicable to multiple standards, including technology use, data, statistics, and more.
Personalized Percent Project
I think you will find that this math lesson lends itself easily to differentiation for both struggling and gifted kids. The accompanying worksheets are also differentiated by levels. The entire range of your class will enjoy the activity, and can take it to the level that is commensurate with their capabilities. Struggling learners will use simple examples such as time spent sleeping, in school, or playing soccer. More advanced kids can choose activities that require only the barest fraction to complete. Examples of activities for advanced pupils include: blinking, swallowing, or saying "Yes, Mom." Offer some of these examples in order to get your kids thinking, then encourage them to be creative with the activity they choose to study.
For this project, I prefer to have my pupils work in pairs because they will delight in the examples they come up with, and enjoy sharing them. By working with a partner, kids can naturally share their thoughts without straying from the task. However, the lesson also works fine when kids are working individually.
Perspective on Mathematics and Beyond
I use this particular lesson to make the process of computing percent become easy. It also helps kids develop an awareness of the logic of percents, a sense of degrees of percentage, and what percentages really signify. This is an important concept to understand because it will lay the groundwork for gaining a grasp of how percentages can be used to express, persuade......and mislead.
Project Prerequisites
Before your class can successfully accomplish the activity, they must know the basics of percent. Below are some sample problems. If they have been introduced to these concepts, and are somewhat comfortable with them, then they are ready to undertake this activity.
 .35 = 35/100 = 35%
 What is 20/% of 50?
 What is 2% of 50? 25/100 = What Percent?
 32/74 = What Percent?
 If there are 43 puppies and 18 of them are Pit Bulls, what percent are Pit Bulls?
Note: I prefer to have my class use calculators for this project, so that the focus can be on the other elements. This is your call, but some of the figuring could be tedious if they have to do it all by hand.
Secondly, if pupils will be creating their graphs on the computer (or iPad), then obviously you will need to show them how to do it. Be aware that creating computer graphs (charts) is very simple to do; kids master this very easily. Note: I suggest they use pie charts, as it lends itself perfectly to data expressed in percentages. But you also might just let them explore on their own and decide which is the best way to format their data. In fifth grade, it is expected that kids learn what graphs are appropriate for which sets of data. I also like to be sure that my pupils have previously worked with Excel graphs.
One final preparation is to have the math lesson immediately preceding this activity figure percentages of quantity. The problems should be similar to these: in a deck of 52 cards; What percentage of the cards are court cards? 23 of 89 soccer players are girls; What percentage of the soccer players are girls?
Procure Project Materials
 Calculators
 Scratch paper
 Handouts/forms (which are provided for you)
Note on differentiation for highability kids: As mentioned above, some of your learners can go much farther with this activity. Instead of figuring percentage of hours, or minutes, they can go into seconds, or even fractions of a second! Gifted kids who understand the basic concepts will not have a great deal of difficulty understanding what is necessary to figure what fraction of a second it takes to blink, and extrapolating from there to arrive at the daily time spent blinking. That’s the beauty of the project; you’ll be gratified at the level of engagement you will see from all your learners.
Project Procedure

Pass out calculators while kids get out scratch paper (we use minidry erase boards, which are terrific).

Introduction: Review of previous day’s activity: "Figuring Percentages of Quantity."

Segue to a discussion of various daily activities, and how much time is spent on them.

Examples: Your time spent teaching, kids eating, playing, playing video games, soccer practice.

"How would we go about figuring the percentage of time spent on these typical activities?" Guide them to the idea of using fractions first, as in 8/24 of the day spent sleeping; 6/24 of the day spent in school, etc. Then, as we did yesterday, we’d divide them to get the percent, since fractions are by their very nature, division. So, to use a very simple example: 6/24 = .25 = 25%.

Explain the basic procedure on board, as students watch carefully. Use a simple example like you see above: determine or estimate amount of time during the day, then subdivide as necessary into minutes or seconds. Divide by the total amount of minutes in the day, and divide the resulting fraction to get a decimal, which they will then convert to a percent.

Explain the activity: They will be working in pairs to come up with 35 daily activities that they will explore, figure the percentage of time they spend daily in that activity, and then graph the results either by hand or on a computer or iPad. They are required to complete the form (supplied), so that their work and thinking is evident, before moving on to the graph.

Pick sticks to assign partners, pass out the calculators and forms, and let them begin.

As pupils finish their calculations on the forms, they segue to creating their graphs.

When most are finished, have a discussion and display the results on the projector.
Assessment
On the following or a subsequent day, assign them, individually, 23 problems of a similar nature, to ensure that each understands the process for determining percentage of quantity or time.