Can you imagine going to a cemetery for math? Well, Chickering 4th graders do! Cemetery Math is a field trip the whole 4th grade goes on every year near Halloween. Cemetery math is a way to apply your math understanding in a real world setting.
When we arrived at the cemetery, you were allowed to work alone or with a group. We bet you are wondering what kind of math you can do in a cemetery. So were we when we heard about it. Well, we received a packet which had math problems in it. For example, we had to try to find the perimeter of a fence around a grave stone. We also had to find at least 4 people who died or were born on a leap year. We were surprised by how tall one of the trees were when we had to estimate the height of it.
Having to find Nathaniel Chickering’s grave was a tricky task. Most of the Chickering graves were close together. The Chickering family were one of the first families to settle here in Dover. They owned acres of land. Some of that land is now The Highland Cemetery*. A lot of the Chickering family are buried in the tombs with large black doors. There are at least three plaques filled with Chickering names. But, Nathaniel Chickering is buried in the 1746 original burying ground*.
The artwork on other headstones were also very impressive. One memorial had an elegant weeping willow engraved into its stone. The cemetery has an assortment of headstone shapes from the traditional rectangle to carefully carved curves. We were looking closely at the artwork in order to find an example of symmetry.
Now can you imagine going to a Cemetery for math? It was a very unusual field trip experience, especially on Halloween. But it would be nicer on a warmer day. Even though it was kind of cold, we still had a ton of fun!
Reported by Ava B., Ellie, and Lauren
* Bertschy, Harry. The History of The Highland Cemetery. Dover, MA, 1997.
We will never forget the time, when we walked to the Highland Cemetery in Dover Center, to participate in Cemetery Math. The day was not exactly freezing but it was cold; leaves started to fall as we walked. The whole fourth grade walked to the Highland Cemetery on October 29, 2013, with clipboards and math packets in there hands. Everyone was excited and nervous to begin our adventure in a cemetery!
We wondered who created Cemetery Math, so we asked Mrs. Haggett. She said it started about 20 years ago or more at the Caryl School. The fourth grade teachers, including Mrs. Haggett, came up with the idea. The fourth grade teachers thought that the cemetery could be a way to show kids math in everyday life, not only math in school. Cemetery Math uses all sorts of math problems. Like using estimation to predict how tall the tallest tree is. The packet students were handed also included problems from all operations including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, estimation and symmetry. For example, ”find a pair of symmetric grave stones”. Another was to subtract the day the person was born from the day that the person died to figure how old the person was. The Chickering family grave and Nathaniel Chickering’s grave were another challenge. The Chickerings were an important family to the town; they made many donations to the town, one from Nathaniel Chickering who in 1746 “bequeathed to the West Precinct of the Town of Dedham [Dover] the burying ground as it lyeth now within fence, to be for the use of the said precinct for a burying-place.”1
Cemetery math doesn’t just involve math, it also includes learning some of the history of Dover and observing autumn changes. If you saw something important you could write it down. For example, if you found a grave with a flag it might mean this person had been in a war or was a veteran. It was a fun way to apply some of our math skills and learn about an unusual place in our town. Who would believe there was math in a cemetery!
Reported Nicole and Derek
1 Bertschy, Harry. The History of The Highland Cemetery. Dover, MA, 1997.
Engraving from Nathaniel Chickering's gravestone in Dover, MA.
Ravens cawing, leaves crunching, wind howling, students sharing …Where? Dover Cemetery! Close to Halloween, 4th grade students walked to the center of town for their math class. Pencils and math packets in hand, groups of students ran around looking for graves with information they needed to answer the questions. During an interview with Mrs. Atkinson, she explained the purpose for Cemetery Math. Cemetery Math is a fun way for students to have hands-on practice with math concepts and it ties into the upcoming holiday. She also explained that they have not made any changes, but will make some this year because the engraving, on gravestones, is wearing off with all the weather. 4th grade has been doing this field trip for 25 + years!
Here is an example of one of the questions:
Find Nathaniel Chickering’s grave.
1. When was he born?
2. When did he die?
3. How old was he when he died?
So the next time you walk through Dover Cemetery try to answer this question.
Reported by K.B., Madison A., and Elizabeth E.