Friday, April 18, 2008

Math (no science yet)

We hit a point this year when I realized that my math skills take a steep decline around Grade 6. Finn and Lucy, both, were ready for more complex ideas but I was not. When math comes up, my mind starts to fog over and suddenly scrubbing the mold off the grout in the bathroom seems like a very pressing, yet enjoyable, task. Better go do that right now - see ya!

This is not such a productive attitude for a homeschooler, especially for the one who is supposed to be creating the atmosphere of ideas. Then, I learned about this essay, Lockhart's Lament.


1 comment:

OfTroy said...

I LOVE MATH. i read math for pleasure. (i was lucky enough to avoid most HS math, (it was so boring!)

fun stuff..

take some yarn (or ribbon, or tape, or any flexible stuff)

take some jars, some lids, some pots, some stuff that is round.

Measure the circumference and the diameter. (Precision is not needed)

(this is best as a group project)

divide circumference by diameter--here is a good place to use a calculater..

collect a whole bunch of measurements--C and D from babyfood jars, and from 5 gallon food/spackling buckets.. from finger rings to hula hoops..

look at the answers...
(they are all close.. many are the same.)

average them (again, use a calculator)

you end up with PI! the group (be it 3 kids or 30, collectively finds out, no matter who measured, no matter what size, PI is a ratio.

it's always the same.

it's not just some number you "learn" and are told PI=3.1419

Pi is something you can discover You can find it.. in an after noon..

and it doesn't feel like math.
its kids working together.. it i s crude measurement (because Yarn is slightly stretchy, and the measurement are inaccurate, and it works anyway!)its talking and working together (one measures, i writes down the measurement, both use calculators to do the math.. (

and if you let the dull boring part be done with a calculator..and instead focus on making a measurement and realizing no matter what tool you use, and no matter what size circle you measure, you always get the same(or close to the same) answer..

WOW! its amazing.. a light go on..

PI IS A REAL THING--its like parents and kids.. there is a permenent relationship..

and if you forget the actually number (3.1419) it doesn't matter, you have the ability to 'rediscover it'... You get to own Pi. its something you can discover for your self, not some fact that is handed to you to memorize and learn by rote.

for fractions? dull boring fraction?

start with a half.. (say a empty or mythical 1/2 gallon of ice cream...
and divide it by 8.. (and think about 1/16 of gallon.. or divide it by 16, and think of 1/32...

(and very quickly, kids can envision HOW MUCH ice cream--

you can also do the same with 1/2 gallon of liquid. (take an empty milk container, and refill with colored water)

and divide the liquid.. into cups and glasses and see what 1/4 of 1/2 looks like, vs what 1/8 of 1/2, vs 1/2 of 1/2...

ask you kids do they want 1/32 (a 1 ounce serving) of a half gallon, or 1/16 (a 2 ounce serving)? or do they want a full 4 ounces (1/8 of a 64 ounce(half gallon of ice cream) (a dixie cups worth!)

very quickly kids realize as the divisor gets bigger, the portions get smaller.. (and knowing that, with out thinking.. is the basis of understanding fractions!)

(the lesson ends with a real 1/2 gallon of ice cream, a ruler (to measure off the block and divide) and sharp knive to cut the block up (and don't tell them that cutting the block up into equal portions is a lesson in geometry!)

you don't scoop, but divide in half,(1/2 of 1/2 =?and in quarters, 1/4 of 1/2=?, and so on..

hands on math, with real things, is so much better than working out problems on pieces of paper!

(and what fraction of nuts or sprinkles are needed?--a 2 cup container of sprinkles can be divide into how many portions..

What a sweet lesson--math disguised as ice cream sundays..

make the lesson part of planning a birthday or other holiday..

add real life.. there are no more 1/2 gallon ice cream containers..

they are now 56 ounces, not 64 ounces.. so if you have 20 kids at a party, and you need 20 servings each equal to 1/8 of a gallon and each container of ice cream only has 6 1/8th servings (not 8!) how many 56 ounce containers of ice cream do you need?

its not math, its party planning, its understanding portions, (and costs.. and reading labels, and real life uses for math.. (and real life consumer savy!)