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Problem-solving with pigs: Start at the end


CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4 Model with mathematics.

CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

⏰ Time

60-75 minutes

📃 Summary

This cross-curricular lesson includes activities and instruction in agricultural science and math. Students begin by watching a video and learning about pig farms. After making their own pig barn, they watch two short videos about solving math problems. This information is then applied to solve problems during a presentation on math around the pig farm. Students end playing one of the Making Camp games to reinforce skills and knowledge.

📲 Technology Required

If teaching in person, the teacher will need a computer and projector or smart board to show the videos, or students can be given the links to watch on their own devices. Students will need a PC, Mac or Chromebook or tablet. Making Camp Premium, Making Camp Lakota and Making Dakota are all playable on any web browser on those devices.

📚 Lesson

This lesson starts with resources from National Ag in the Classroom

Virtual tour of pig farms

Virtual Field Trip to Ohio Pig Farms

Make a Pig Barn

This activity requires a few supplies but it is probably things you have lying around and your students will probably enjoy it.

  • Business-size envelopes, 4 per group
  • Paper towel, 1 per group
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape


  • Markers
  • Toilet paper rolls, 2 per group
  • Drinking straws, 2 per group (cut into 8 equal pieces)
  • 8.5″ x 11″ white paper, 1 per group (cut in half)
  • Extra paper for making fencing, pipes, feed troughs, etc. (optional)


Use the following instructions to model for the students how to create the barn:

  1. Barn: Cut an oval hole in one envelope, making a large side window for the barn. This window provides the proper ventilation for the pigs.
  2. Cut the paper towel in half and tape it onto the top of the window for the curtain.
  3. Cut another envelope in half for the ends of the barn.
  4. Tape the ends of the barn to the “sides of the barn” envelopes, one of which has the hole for the window and paper towel curtain, so that you have four sides, or a rectangle.
  5. Use the final envelope to create a roof by creasing it in half lengthwise and attaching it with tape to the top of the rectangle.
  6. Food Storage: Tape four straws, or legs, to each toilet paper roll so that the structures will stand on the legs.
  7. Use a half piece of paper, and make a cone shape by twisting and taping the ends. Tape the cone shape on the end of the toilet paper roll without the straw legs.
  8. Use the other half piece of paper to make another smaller cone shape and tape it between the straw legs on the other end of the toilet paper roll.

If you’d like, you or your students can watch the instructions here. You can also assign this video for students learning at home to watch so they know how to make the barn. The plus is that just about every house will have every single one of these items except possibly the straws.

Optional additional science and language arts content

This link to the National Ag in the Classroom lesson has more information on pigs and pig farming, including some of the vocabulary used in the math lesson as well as a discussion of the ways farmers care for animals. I highly recommend checking it out.

Watch a video on operations key words

Trust me, this does come back to pig farming!

Students watch this video on operations keywords. This two-minute video has been watched over 14,000 times, which gives some indication of how useful students and teacher find the concept of looking at the words in a problem to decide which operation to use.

Watch a video on problem-solving – Start at the end

This 3 1/2 minute video explains that the end of the word problem is where you usually will find the question you are expected to solve. It includes one easy and one harder example, as well as a couple of useful tips.

Start at the End

Give a presentation

This 34-slide deck on problem-solving reinforces the information in the two math videos and gives students three problems of increasing difficulty where they have to start at the end, all centered around Laura’s pig farm.

Play a game

Now that students have been introduced to problem-solving with multiplication and division word problems, it’s time to play a game and reinforce those skills. Which game depends on what you feel your students need most. There is overlap among the games as each includes some review.

Making Camp Premium – focuses primarily on multiplication of one- and two-digit numbers. Also includes division with one-digit divisors. The content is taught in the context of Ojibwe history and culture.

Making Camp Lakota – focuses primarily on division with one-digit divisors. Also includes multiplication of one- and two-digit numbers. The content is taught in the context of Lakota history and culture.

Making Camp Dakota – focuses primarily on division of three-digit numbers with one- and two-digit divisors. Also includes multiplication of one- and two-digit numbers and division with one-digit divisors. The content is taught in the context of Lakota history and culture.


Assessments are built into the presentation, as teachers can have students submit their answers in writing or in a Google chat prior to giving the answers during the presentation. Teachers can also see which standards students have attempted and how many problems they have answered correctly in the Making Camp teacher reports.

Related lesson : Problem-solving Two ways

As the title suggests, this lesson introduces students to two other problme-solving strategies. They watch a video on visualization, then solve a problem that asks them to visualize. After watching a video on building a model, students build and/or draw their own model of a multiplication problem or property.