This brief post is dedicated to an enthusiastic and energetic young man who took up the idea to do something kinesthetic while learning times tables facts. This is a great strategy to combine left- and right-brain and get things really embedded in the memory.
The choice of action was trampolining.
Sadly, our young mathematician misjudged the jump and ended up with a broken arm.
So be careful out there. Those times tables can be dangerous.
Earlier in the year I applied for Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship to study the inquiry process in mathematics education.
To my surprise, my application was successful and in 2013 I will have the opportunity to get out there and see what is happening.
Receiving my Churchill Fellowship from the Governor General, the Honorable Quentin Bryce
The Learning Journey
During April and part of May 2013 I will be visiting schools in New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Singapore. I will also be attending the NCTM conference in Denver, Colorado.
I'm excited already - it should be lots of fun and a great experience. While I have made preliminary arrangements with several schools, if you happen to be in any of these cities and would like to arrange a visit, let me know and I'll see what we can organise.
I'd like to thank several people who helped me in the application process - Peter Sullivan of Monash University, Melbourne; Philip Heath, Principal of Radford College; my staff team on Year 4 whose enthusiasm and support really encouraged me; and my wife and family - thanks everyone!
Want to apply for a Fellowship?
Interested? Are you an Australian citizen? (UK and NZ - you have your own associations)
Listening to the voice of the child Something I want to do more in my class is to listen to how the kids are feeling about what they are doing. I make too many assumptions about what they think and feel and I make important judgments based on my own skewed views. So what would the kids say when I asked them to complete the sentence....
I got my class, and the one next door belonging to CapitanoAmazing (find him on Twitter or at http://4thgradebigquestions.blogspot.com.au/), to finish the sentence. I sorted through their responses and found lots of interesting and thoughtful comments.
Here is a selection that I have grouped into sets.
Awesomely Positive Responses!
There was always going to be a few of these. Some kids are so positive about everything they do. Being so effusive doesn't make these comments any less important - they need to be acknowledged and celebrated along with the rest of the team.
This is hard but I think I can do it
An interesting group of responses from kids who found that Maths is easy but who were prepared to take the challenge and have a go.
I really encourage kids to try a variety of strategies to reach a solution. This really helps them, and me, to reflect on the problem solving strategies being used and which might be most effective.
Maths is meant to be a challenge. We need to take kids from what they know to what they don't know - this is the essence of learning. I'm really glad that these guys identified the challenging nature of learning.
Help! I think I'm drowning!
There is almost a sense of desperation in some of these comments, where the child can see that things aren't going in the right direction but they don't know how to turn it around. How many kids are sitting in my room thinking that they are failing? Not just in Maths but in writing? spelling? reading? Well, now I know about a few of them and guess what? Now you're on the radar I can do something about it. This is formative assessment, isn't it?
Something to think about
And some of these responses made me sit back and think.
Maths is a sum that has one answer? Really?
Or Maths is the basic number operations? Isn't there anything else - just figuring out?
I do encourage the "fun" idea and the problem solving side of maths so I'm glad a few kids identified that as part of the process. And "Power and Knowledge"! A very interesting concept to explore.
Maths is Life!
And then there were those who saw the real-life meaning and application of Maths.
Maths is everyday life.
And if that message is all that my kids hear this year, I won't be disappointed.
(Well, maybe a bit - but it's a really important lesson to learn.)
To celebrate Sally Pearson’s great win in
the 100m hurdles today, the teachers planned a special welcome. When the kids
came in to the building this morning we had the following numbers written on
the white board:
Sally - an Australian hero!
“All these numbers relate to the 100m
hurdles,” we told the kids
No other information was provided. Time for
the kids to start thinking.
Ah! Now some lights start flicking on.
“100 is the 100m for the race!”
“And 1235 is the time Sally ran – 12.35
"And there's 10 hurdles in the race."
After some prompting we got to the last numbers:
13m from the start line to the first hurdle.
Each hurdle is 8.5m apart.
It's 10.5m from the last hurdle to the finish line.
And the hurdles are 83.8cm high. (Why the crazy height? Well, it used to be 2' 9" in the imperial system)
...and in this discussion we covered such mathematical concepts as:
- decimal points
- need to use correct units of measurement
- addition of decimals
- length, time and speed
A great conversation to start the day!
So we got out some till paper (long rolls of paper from an old cash register) and held it at 83.8cm so the kids could have a go at a hurdle.
Learning an Old Game - Fly!
As a bit of fun, we learnt a an old game that I used to play at school called "Fly".
Here's the rules:
You have seven sticks and you place them about a foot apart.
Then all the kids stand in a line and run through putting one foot in between each stick.
The last person in the line is the 'Fly", they run through and then at the last stick they jump as far as they like, then they pick a stick to be moved to the spot where they landed.
Eventually the spacings get bigger and bigger and harder and harder. A person gets out when they put more than one foot in between two sticks (ie they don't make the jump) or miss one.
When 'Fly' gets out, the second last jumper becomes the new 'Fly'
Our school operates under the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP). A key part of this programme is the Year 6 Exhibition, a culminating activity designed to demonstrate the awareness and understanding of the students of what they have learnt over their time in the PYP.
It involves group work.
It elicits deeper learning.
It is a transdisciplinary inquiry.
So I'm keen to see how our Year 6 students are going to use their maths skills and knowledge to explore this year's concept of "Conflict".
The Good News - I am a Mentor!
Each collaborative group finds or is assigned a mentor - someone who can help the group find their direction, clarify their questions and distill their message.
Fortunately for the group that I will be mentoring, I will have a special interest in how they explore the concept of "Conflict".
And, of course, how they use their maths skills as part of this inquiry.
The Bad News - I am a Mentor!
So look out team - you have been warned! I'm looking for something more than a column graph and a table of numbers. I'm hoping to see some creative and insightful uses of maths skills to underpin this significant inquiry into a big, big concept. I'll let you know how the team and I get along as the journey unfolds...
- Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake, Justin Gatlin. What a race!
....so we thought we'd do some inquiry about the race and see what mathematical concepts we could uncover.
We Headed for the Oval
On the 100m track, we spaced students out at 10m intervals holding signs saying 10m, 20m, 30m, etc.
At the first whistle, children started running to see how far they could get in 9.63 seconds. When the clock got to 9.63 seconds, I blew the whistle again and the runners stopped, checking how far they had got and looking to see how far Usain Bolt had got in the same time.
So what did the kids have to say? And what mathematical concepts could they uncover?
"I ran 55m. That's 45m less than Usain Bolt."
"I almost got halfway."
"I got 64m before 9.63 seconds was up. I ran 6.6 m/sec. Usain Bolt ran 10.38 m/sec."
"I got between 60m and 65m."
"Usain Bolt would be twice as fast as me. In the Olympics I wouldn't even be second last!"
"I ran approximately 55m whuile Usain Bolt would have run 100m. 100m divided by 9.63 seconds is about 10.38. So Usain Bolt ran 10.38 metres every second. If I divide the metres by 1000 you get 0.01038 km. Then you multiply by 3600 seconds to get km per hour - that is about 37 km per hour. That was his average speed."
....and my favourite:
"I look down the track and murmur to myself - Usain Bolt is really fast!"