Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hidden Snowflake Math

Math is not always obvious, but "hidden" everywhere in children's play and activities.  Sorting blocks by shape and color during a building session, counting flowers in a pretend floral shop, pouring sand into different sized containers in a sensory bin, setting out the same number of napkins as there are children to help prepare for snack, or measuring the shelves with a piece of string.

A favorite activity of mine when winter rolls around has become tradition in our home and is "hidden" with several math opportunities for kids to discover.

The materials we use are simple:
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Tracing paper (When cutting through several layers, thin paper is easier to work with)
  • Circular object (Like a bowl, or cup)
Our process tends to go like this....

1. Tracing: We use a bowl to trace a desired number of circles on our paper, then cut them out.  The bigger the circle, the bigger the snowflake.
2. Folding: We fold the circles in half, then again, then one more time.  We fold it at least 3 times.

It should look like the shape in the picture above.  Do you see the opportunity here?  We can discuss, halves, and thirds, or quarters, depending on how many times we fold it.

3. Cutting: We let our boys cut designs of their choosing.  We have made snowflakes using only circular cuts, triangular cuts, slits, specific shapes (cut outs that look like a house or rocket ship). 

4. Unfolding:  Watch for smiles and excitement with the end result.  Naturally, symmetry is a topic that comes up at this point. 

5. Experiment: 
  • Fold one circle three times, then fold a second circle four times.  Make the exact same cuts on each one, then unfold and talk about the differences seen between the two.  Try folding less than three times or more than four the next time.  
  • Make cuts only on the folded side of one circle, then make the same cuts on a second circle, but on the "open" side.  Unfold and talk about the differences between the two.

6, Display and enjoy!

If your younger ones are not ready for scissors;
  • Have them add color to the snowflakes before or after cutting them out with crayons, pencils, or paint.
  • Let them work on the unfolding step
  • Supervise their scissor use, even if they just cut it up into tiny little pieces.  Every opportunity to practice is one step closer to mastering this fine motor skill.

Discover the multiple natural opportunities to discuss math with your kids this season while you decorate your space!

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Figuring it out

My work is not repetition. It is an exploration. (Guido Molinari)

When a child struggles to fit a piece to a puzzle, when he struggles to keep a tower from falling, or when he struggles to remember what comes after three; how do you respond?  How long do you wait?  When is the right moment?

Letting children play without helping, without showing, is sooooo hard to do.  It's like an itch you want to scratch badly, but you shouldn't, because it will only make it worse.

Last month my two and a half year old pulled out a box that he's never used before; a wooden box that houses four different twelve piece puzzles.  I watched him try to force two pieces to fit together, try another, turn it, and try some more.    

Pretty soon he was fitting a couple together. "You're matching the pictures." I told him.

He seemed to realize what I said because he was matching more pieces together, and looking for other pieces with letters when he found one with letters on it.

He isn't proficient with puzzles, but he was figuring it out without me directing him, and when he got stuck he asked for help.

Once they were all put together he did not want them to be put away....

They became a display on the table for weeks.

Occasionally, he took the puzzles apart and put them back together, mostly, over and over again.

He was figuring out how to manipulate these new objects.

I don't believe he would have explored the same puzzles for weeks had I showed and instructed him; as an MIT article here suggests,

Had I not simply stated what he was doing with the puzzle pieces, he may not have discovered that they will fit together sometimes even if the pictures don't match.

There's something to be said for modeling and doing as you would like your child to do.

Sometimes they need to figure it out on their own, no showing, no telling.  And that moment will come once YOU figure it out!

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

How You See It Matters

"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."
-W.B. Yeats

We project a lot onto our children about how we perceive things in this world; the way we behave, the way something tastes, how things feel to us, what is or isn't beautiful, scary, or fun.

We unintentionally cloud their view of things sometimes before they have a chance to focus and make a decision for themselves about it.

Teaching children about the world is not always black and white.  When they encounter something new, taking a step back and observing them taking it in will tell you a lot about what they see.

You may be surprised at how children will react...

What you see is neither right nor wrong, but how you see these things matters because it's what you are encouraging them to see.  

Are your kids aware of your perceptions?

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