Thursday, January 21, 2010

The building blocks of learning

Ok, now that some serious thinking and praying for an idea has happened, I'm ready (maybe) to mediate our biggest hurdle at present: " I hate math!"

I prayed and the Lord gave me a picture to relate to my daughter about the role that math plays in our lives and He gave me some direction in how to go about it.
We had a great 45 minute discussion and for the benefit of time, I will give you the highlights or a slightly edited version.

I invite my daughter to sit down and talk with me about math and explain that I want us to enjoy learning about it together. (Intentionality and Recrpocity)

I first introduce her to the three blocks that all of our learning is done on.
Yep, literally three blocks. Reading. Writing. Arithmetic.
I then asked her to look around the room and tell me what she liked about the room. She noted different toys, different colors, etc. Then she started talking about up cleaning up and how she liked that our shelves were organized and in order.
"If I took everything off and had to put them back on (without order) I'd be puzzled."
"Great insight," I comment.
I put two yellow blocks up and said, "Did you know that orderliness and being organized comes from math?"(Bridging)
A look of surprise comes on her face.
We talk about sorting, grouping objects together and how that helps us in our home. (Meaning)
"Do you think that's a useful skill to have?"
I place the red block on top of the two yellow signifying it's importance in our daily lives.
Then she started talking about organizing her room and since we set up an orderly system it's easy to keep clean. She noted that her room is easier to keep clean because it is smaller than the living room. She then got up and measured her room in feet (we were in the living room).
I asked her if she realized the comparing and measuring were math skills. (Bridging)
"Oh, that's right!" she said.
I put two small building blocks to stack on top of the previous red one.
I then asked if she wondered why being able to compare room size would be beneficial. (Meaning)
"Do you think that's a useful skill to have?"She thought about it and then we talked about how understanding size and being able to measure things helps us know what can go into the room, how big to build a house, etc.
Once she saw the valued connection with comparing and measuring, I put a red block on top of the bridges.
Then we talked about going to the grocery store. We role played several possibilities that can happen when shopping and I bridged to some experiences that we had the previous day at a thrift store.
"What helped you figure out which items to buy?"
"Well, I only had five dollars and I wanted three things but could only get two of them."
"What decision were you able to make?"
"I chose what I really wanted and put one item back."
"Did you know that math helped you do that." (Bridging)
"Oh no! Not subtraction!"
"Yep and addition helped too." I placed two blocks on the building again.
We talked through that scenario again that took place at the store and walked through her thought process about how she decided. (Meaning) (Competence)
"Do you think that's a useful skill to have?"
Once she saw how valuable adding and subtracting are to different areas in our lives, we added the red block on top.
We talked a little bit about distance and shapes and some other things. Then we stacked up up two more triangles on top to show that math makes life interesting. This tower is our life and math helped us build it. (Sharing)
Then we took a few minutes to play and have fun.
I then reminded her of her first statement, "I hate math."
"Imagine," I said, as I approached one of the blocks. "What would happen if we didn't learn subtraction and we lived our whole life without knowing how to do it." (Bridging)
"What do you think would happen?"
Crash! (Meaning)
"How does this change our life?"
"It's broken. You can't build on it. It's fallen over."
"Right. Can you see why learning math is important?"
"Would you like to brainstorm with me some ideas on how we can make math more fun?"

We pulled out several books and inventoried our games and came up with 8 new ways that we could approach math. (Optimistic Alternative)

We left this conversation with a united sense of purpose. We are traveling the math path together. I'm learning to undo former ways of being taught to do math, and she's learning how it all fits into the big picture of life. A moment of success for build on for us.

Kind of like a red building block.

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