Dakota Conflict WebQuest tipi - pronounced 'teepee'For PCs and MACs

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Lesson Plan #4 - Tipi Fractions (pronounced tee-pee)
By Keith Erickson, Poplar Middle School
Grade Levels: 4. 5.6
Links: Social Studies Art


Tipis are a wonderful manipulative to demonstrate hands-on fraction skills and demonstration.

Time Required:

30-40 minutes

Teacher Preparation:

A great activity for introducing fractions or during Native American Week. The teacher would need a little information into the uses of the tipi. A local source (museum director or a Native American expert) would be a excellent avenue in researching teepees.

Student Preparation:

The students would need background into where the tipis were used and what tribes used the tipis.

Materials for the Classroom:

Paper Plates, Scissors, Markers

National Standards:

This lesson will cover the following NCTM National Standards-

  • Content Standard 9 - Two and three-dimensional geometry
  • Content Standard 7 - Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • Content Standard O - Whole Number concepts and skills


Using the constructions of tipis to demonstrate basic fractions geometry.


This is one question to explore, "Why do I need this and when will I ever use this answers?"
Tell the students that good mathematical skills was a must for the survival of
the Native American culture. Tell the students that construction of tipis is an
excellent way to demonstrate fractions.

Procedures for theClassroom:

Begin the lesson by explaining that math is not something that only the students have to survive through, Native Americans have been using math in cooperation with their culture for many years. Tell the kids that a tipi was one of the most important survival tools to the Native Americans. Without math and geometry, good construction of the tipi would have been very difficult. Hold up a paper plate and tell the class that one paper plate represents the whole number.

  1. Giving each of the kids a paper plate, fold the plate in half and cut along the folded line. Now tell the kids that each of the two halves makes 1. Demonstrate by holding up the two pieces. Now fold the two pieces in half and cut along the ibid. Now show the kids that you have four parts of a whole or one-quarter. You can continue this process as much as you want. Try not to go smaller than sixteenths. After cutting the pieces, now tape the pieces back together so you have the original two pieces (mo-halves). Now tell the students that these two original pieces represent two tipi covers. Tell the kids this is how the Indians made their tipis, but thev sewed.
  2. This is the second cut that should be made with the plate. You now have 1/2 of 1/2 to a quarter of a whole.
  3. This process can continue until the plate is cut into 1/8's, 1/16's or 1/32's. The plate should not be cut extremely small. The smaller the pieces the harder they are to put back together when making the tipi. Now make a conical shape to represent a tipi. Have the kids decorate if desired.

Facts and Concepts:

Native Americans constructed their tipi covers from a semicircular design. They cross stitch together pieces of hide into a semicircular design and then make a conical shape out of that. This conical shape is the basic form for all tipis constructed on the Plains.

Follow Up Activities:

A few follow up activities can be: A more detailed explanation of the use of tipis. An actual tipi cover can be brought into class, if access is available. Further, setting a tipi up is a wonderful idea.
For math, cutting the pieces even smaller can be an option. The pieces can be cut into eighths, sixteenths, etc.

Evaluation Suggestions:

The evaluation is a great way to include multiple intelligences (Verbal-Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, & Visual, Spatial). Give a quiz over the lesson presented. Simply hold a piece of plate that was {put away and have them answer "how much of the plate do they have." This evaluation can be as basic as you want or more sophisticated if desired. The best thing about the evaluation is that it covers more than one multiple intelligence. The child is not only looking at the problem, they are also being read the problem by the teacher. Performance grading is also an option. If the child does the project and puts forth great effort, then this an excellent way of assessing. If you decide to do this, I would tell the children before that their performance determines their grade.

Bryan, William J. Montana's Indians: Yesterday and Today. 1996. American & World Geographic Publishing.
"Seven Ways of Knowing." Article. Daivd Lazere. PP. 174-176.


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