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Friday, May 15, 2015

3D Math: Building Workshop

Tangram Image from Wikipedia Tangram Page
Yesterday we spent some time exploring geometric properties with tangrams. It was easy to tell which students had lots of experience with hands-on building and puzzle making and which students did not have this kind of experience. I notice that students who have experience with building toys generally grasp math concepts with greater ease.

So today after the PARCC test, I'll give students the chance to explore a large number of building/making materials including the following:
  • Legos
  • K'Nex
  • Tangrams
  • Maker Station: Lots of recyclables, adhesives, and decorative materials.
  • Blocks, Lincoln Logs, and Little Toys
  • Origami
  • Pattern Blocks and Tiles
  • Makey Makey and Little Bits
I'll support their ability to make a choice and explore the materials. I'll also take note of what they create and make as well as their teamwork.

Yesterday Jose Vilson's post, "Why Math is a Social Justice Issue," made me think of all the ways that we can build math engagement, empowerment, and education in young students. I added the following ideas to the comment section of Jose's post:
  • We have to work with families and communities to dispel myths about "math smart" and the ability to learn math. Last year a young boy said to me, "People in my neighborhood can't learn math." Harmful myths about learning math are everywhere and these myths are harmful to developing a growth mindset with regard to learning math. Communities all over the world can promote a love of math in multiple ways if they put their imagination into the issue.
  • Tech savvy students who play games like Minecraft and code with SCRATCH and SCRATCH, Jr. are way ahead of their counterparts who don't engage in this kind of early learning. Too much technology used in schools is dull "workbook on a page" tech rather than inviting, engaging, and empowering games and other programs that excite students and develop natural math learning.
  • The toys students play with matter too. Students who have early access to toys such as Legos, math board games, blocks, checkers, chess and other math related games and activities develop math skills more readily.
  • We have to make math come alive with exciting math learning events from preschool on--there's endless great ways to teach math and make it fun.
  • We have to boost the math knowledge of all pre-school and elementary school teachers (and perhaps parents who are interested too). Sometimes teachers at those levels don't have a rich understanding of math and serve to continue math myths and misunderstanding.
The Maker Choices were a big success!