Day 178 (of 187) it’s hard to put into words how much I love Math Recess by @mathgarden & @cbrownLmath

Day 178 (of 187) it’s hard to put into words how much I love Math Recess by @mathgarden & @cbrownLmath

Really. It is literally hard to find the words to use to explain how much I have enjoyed this book…mindfully read after Paul Lockharts Mathematicians Lament and then Sunil Singh’s Pi of Life. All have led me further down the rabbits hole of “math should be fun…and pretty…and deliciously complex….and beautifully simple…all at the same time.

But I’ll try….

The forward itself is a beautiful challenge. Are we happy that generations of students “get through” math for reasons other than enjoyment? We aren’t happy when readers go through the motions, hoping we will connect them with the “right book” that will foster a love of literature….but math….

Then we explore the sweet sound of disruption which I may be have known to be connected with a time or two…maybe more…. which illustrated how the book got its name. Kids have fun at recess…and when kids have fun with math…that’s what it sounds like. Freedom. Exploration. Collaborative competitions. Not drill and kill (enthusiasm, interest, will….)

Which finally brings us to the introduction and when I knew I would be digesting this book differently. In smaller pieces than I usually pour through books. With more thinking that was definitely first sparked by Pi of Life and Mathematicians Lament (which now pop up in my predictive typing…. so many thinkings pushing us to consider about math having elements of playfulness and fun – and not just once in awhile. A push to consider what rules need breaking for a paradigm shift in math that is so nicely illustrated by something so often missed in math: stories (sidebar – today I had to cover a grade 2 class and I know they have been working on time. So as per a “Mr Landy Classroom Takeover” dayplans are guidelines and I will try to stay more or less within the lines. And I told a historical story about clocks. How they started with one hand and how we can estimate what time it is easily when it is at a compass ordinal, but the in between are trickier. Is it 7? 8? 7:30? Which is why when we needed more precision we added numbers and a minute hand

And then there is the Added Introduction for our US friends and the first dog eared page showing where to go back for reminders that…

Mathematically proficient students will…

  • make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
    reason abstractly and quantitatively
    Model with mathematics (@theweirdteacher got me to have students do this as if they were on a catwalk….)
    Attend to precision
    And more – you gotta get this book!

And finally to chapter one: Just Play. So easy but so controversial. There is so much support for learning through play (not exclusively, but there needs to be time for it!) too much structure ruins the fun – even “the great one” Wayne Gretzky bemoans the current state of overcoaching sports which jeopardizes the fun and joy of the game. [Sidebar: A’s an underqualified soccer coach with my daughters team a few years ago I made sure to build into each practice some “Messi-around time” to practice juggling…or anything with the soccer ball other than passing shooting and throw-ins. We did not win a lot of games (in a league where scores didn’t count) but four years later, more than half that team continues to play high level soccer. The other teams did not have the same maturation rate]

Anyways, games like sprouts and others help make good memories of math and math strategies…and it is easier to remember the good old times than the times you were staring at the clock estimating how many milliseconds there were till the stupid math class would be over…(just me? Okay – moving on!) but maybe just maybe, math can be used as an option of a reward rather than as a negative consequence….

We then explore Scrapes and Bruises – or why it’s okay to fall down along our ways to growing and learning. We can celebrate struggles. We can appreciate anxieties because they are so close to the ideal state of “flow”:

(another folded page)

And some fun games that make it worthwhile to work hard at understanding.

Then chapter three Grades are for Onions which connected so strongly to some of my own writings on feedback and assessment (formative and descriptive please!) and while I have worked with many teachers (even in primary) who like math because they take the total scores of rights vs a possible total and voila a grade is concrete and done. When reality needs to be so much different. Because if the 100 scale is good, wouldn’t a thousand scale be better? Or a googol to be very precise? Numbers lie. They don’t always mean what they hope to mean. Likewise with those old fashioned report card things (sorry, I’m degressing)

And then the Math Playground – with Games aplenty to play and learn math with. I’m not going into details but I am looking on breaking some games out at the extended family’s houses this summer!

Chapter 5 looks at Finland with Finn-n-Fun and I have loved stealing some ideas from this Nordic country – one of my faves has been the 45 minutes of work and 15 minute break routine. Really helped many students I work with with a variety of challenges. But that “break” is focused on play – rather than homework for the most part.

And one of my biggest takeaways for chapter six: Storytelling. I gotta agree that much of my math learning may have been soul-less because of the lack of stories showing that math wasn’t just there to be uncovered, but has been uncovered…debated…argued… proven right and then wrong… humans are at the centre of maths. I like to tease my daughter in engineering that calculus is weird – that it’s like some guy just made it all up! Technically there were two…but…that story is for another time….

Aptly named: Mind Blown. Love this quote used from Antoine de Saint-Exupery: if you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. I am a late-to-life lover of math (and finding other librarians doing similar!) From primes to factorials, Graham’s Number and more – there is a lot to Math that can be absolutely engaging and fascinating. So much fun exploring this chapter!

And then the term I have used in many recent tweets as I too have gone down The Rabbit Hole. I read this chapter twice and am looking forward to more redos. The more I have been thinking, the more I realize that I have only started down an amazing path that is the world of the maths and there are many twists and turns and wonders awaiting – some paths to be taken and some to be wondered about….

And the penultimate chapter: Pure Imagination. Pushing us to consider what is the purpose of the math curriculum? To be memorizers of methods and hopefully use them at the right time? Or understanders of why area and perimeter are related but why they are not the same (and not just hope you remember which is addition and which is multiplied….). How do we dabble in the maths? I have just put up “what Mr Landy is mathing” next to “what Mr Landy is reading” to show that math can be for fun as well….

And in conclusion, Why can’t we be friends connecting thinking and people and passions. I can’t believe I didn’t know about @lilmathgirl until I read page 227….she should’ve been highlighted on page 42…

But a great reminder that just because the book is done does not mean the thinking or doing or mathing is done. There is a lot more to go! But math can be kind. It can be fun. It can be like recess: a thing that can be explored. Played with. Social. So much more than even questions in class and odd questions for homework.

Such a powerful book and the writings of Sunil Singh and Christopher Brownell are going to become “mandatory reading” before I am ready to talk math with others. And Math Recess has a combination of the best math thingys: Games. questions. Wonders. Connections. And stories. Math really is so much more than + – x /

If you haven’t gotten this yet, get it. If you have it, pass it on. After you re-read a few sections a couple of times that is….!

  • About technolandy

    Principaling on the Pacific in Powell River BC Pushing 'technologization' in education: blending technology and curriculum seamlessly. Advocate for better understanding of Anxiety in Education (and use of self-regulation) Utilizing ePortfolios & Descriptive Feedback to personalize learning!
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