Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Playdough Math

Playdough Image and Recipe Link
This morning while considering the flexibility needed to learn and teach math well, I realized that great mathematicians actually see numbers as playdough. With that in mind, I started the math class today by having students write this sentence in their math journals:

Great Mathematicians think of numbers as playdough.

Then I told students the story that one of my university students told last night. She relayed her horrible math learning experiences, experiences that included lots of meaningless repetition and paper/pencil work. Then she went on to tell about her amazing experiences of learning how to learn math as an adult who utilized a large variety of online and other resources. Her story touched all of us.

Once the story was done, I asked the students why great mathematicians might think of numbers as playdough. They made the following connections and stated, in part, that, like playdough, mathematicians can mold, order, create with, split in half, play with, imagine, make even groups, mix, change, and rearrange numbers. Next we played with the number 82. It was amazing to see what students did with that number as they thought about the number as playdough. I had a bit of dough in my hand to model some of their work as well.

The more I teach math, the more I love it. The more I play with numbers and think of them as playdough, the better I am able to teach the subject.

If someone asked you why numbers are like playdough, what would you say? How might this impact the way you teach and learn math? I'm curious.