Sunday, March 22, 2015

Practical-Ambient Mathematics

       This weekend we were working in the yard and completing some sewing projects.  A former student came by to help and to learn how to sew.  The student will be called S for the rest of this tale. 

       First we started in the garden.  The children have decided to grow cooking herbs to sell but we had to get the garden beds ready after a year of neglect.  We went outside to measure the beds and figure out how much dirt we would need.  The both beds were three feet by nine feet and half of a foot low.  By the young ones were able to visualize taking the yard squared sections and stacking them to make a cubic yard of dirt.  It turned into a math problem which was easily solved just by picturing it.  Minecrafting experience helped because they were able to visualize a cubic yard.  Here is a link to help you create your own gardening project:

       Once we completed our yard work we came inside to work on a few sewing projects.  S brought scrap material from home for us to make a round skirt.  As we began to create this without a pattern she realized she was going to need the to find a radius of a circle based on the circumference of her waistOnce she completed the math for this project we were able to fold the material in fourths and measure the radius down either side of the center corner.  We used a pen to describe an arc connecting the two radii.  She was surprised when we cut it out the it fit her waist perfectly.  

       At the end of the morning when she has completed her project I asked her the question, "How will anyone ever use the maths they teach now in middle school?"  She and I both knew we had used middle school level mathematics all morning.  She said, "Not everyone will but the people who live interesting lives will."  Well said!

       The experience left me thinking about how practical hands on learning stays with people. This type of learning is not occurring very often in schools because there is so much pressure for teachers to conform to becoming a test prep technician.  Teachers who still use teaching as a creative outlet are swimming against the current.  I still long to create memorable lessons that cause students to see the practical side of the learning.  My old school definition and experiences of teaching this way are joyful. I may have to create some classes outside of the public sphere to practice.  

       S left our home with more than a skirt she knows practical ways to apply some of the maths she had previously only learned for tests My children were able to help with the projects and completed some sewing projects of their own.
       At the end of the day my children told me we had made some great memories today and they had enjoyed themselvesI did too.  I hope to make another round skirt for my daughter soon.  If you would like to see how to complete this project I will post it to: soon.

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