Children say cutest things… about calculus

Lydia Gordon is a math circle leader who used our Inspired by  Calculus materials in several sessions, and sent these fun notes. Here are a couple of math sparks that go with activities mentioned here, in case you want to try them too: How You Slice It and Make Shapes with Sticks.

Craft Sticks Math Spark

Have some math notes to share? Write us!

Here are Lydia’s notes.


When we discussed dimensions, these were questions that worked well with our explorations of playdough, sticks, fruit slices, and other building materials:

  • What would 4D and 0D be like?
  • Derivative: How would I make a 1D line into a square or circle? A square into a cube?
  • Integral: How would I make a sphere into a circle?
  • How would you take the derivative of a piece of fruit? How would you integrate fruit slices?

Children’s quotes:

About derivative as taking-apart: “Not the first thing on my to-do list – to get blown up. It’s, like, my nine hundred thousandth!”
“She made some minor modifications. And by minor, I mean a lot.”
A boy named Quin, integrating a bunch of banana slices into a 3D banana: “It’s genetically modified through Quin-gineering!”

Math circles need warm-up activities in several situations. One is the beginning, when everybody still arrives – an insight puzzle. It is solved by playing with dimensions, the point of view children can develop from calculus activities. We started with a brain teaser from The Moscow Puzzles: 3 toothpicks are connected with playdough to form am equilateral triangle. Can you form 7 such triangles with 9 toothpicks? Everyone started arranging toothpicks in 2D patterns. In five minutes, my seven-year-old built a pyramid (3D) which sparked the idea of building in 3D and led children to the eventual answer.

Another warm-up was for brainstorming our construction activities. We talked about different ways of creating something. Out-of-the-box examples came up: Quentin Tarantino creating Curious George in his style, a tree trimmer performing brain surgery, or The Muppets singing Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Pretend-play with toys is how we invite children to consider new mathematical points of view. The kids built circles with different numbers of Keva Planks: 8, 16, 32, and 100 (diameter was ~5’). We walked a LEGO mini-figure along the different circles, as if they were slices of the Earth. Children saw why the Earth looks flat to a small person walking it. We noted that the wedge of space between the planks became smaller as the circle became larger. We ended up building with Keva planks the rest of the time. The challenge I gave them was to build a cantilevered bridge. Two teams built each side of the bridge and met in the middle.

The kids and I enjoyed having a math problem at the beginning of the meeting. I will definitely be using The Moscow Puzzles again. I’m about halfway through Mobius Noodles, and that was a great resource too.

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Posted in 1001 Circles & Leaders, Make & Grow

August 17&18 puzzle-making masterclass and August 8 virtual camps for children

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August 17&18 Puzzle-Making Online Masterclass

Creating Your Own Math Puzzles masterclass will unpack the process of creating a mathematical puzzle, starting with the open-ended mathematical play that leads us to ask deep questions. How do I start? Where do ideas come from? How do I know if the questions I am asking are mathematical? How do I know if my questions are good ones? We will address all of these questions as we work through the process of creating puzzles together.

  • What: An intensive two-session masterclass on creating puzzles for the young and the young at heart, from concept to sharing.
  • Why: You and your students can do accessible, real math like the pros do it! Learn how open-ended mathematical play leads to deep questions.
  • Who: Math circle leaders, parents, teachers, and teens, with children (ages 5-10) as apprentice puzzle makers. Lead by Dr. Sian Zelbo, the author of Camp Logic and the upcoming Playing with Blocks.
  • When: Live online meetings August 17th and 18th at 8-9 PM EST (New York).

Check out Sian’s seven-step process of making puzzles, and try it yourself at the workshop.

Make Math Puzzles


Last chance: Week-long daily courses for children start Monday August 8

We have spots left in two courses for children that start Monday, August 8 and run daily for a week: Calculus for Kids, ages 5-9, and Camp Logic, ages 9-14. Check out sample activities, then sign up for a week of daily mathematical joy!

Camp Logic Sample Pages


See you online!

Dr. Maria Droujkova and the Natural Math crew

CC BY-NC-SA

Questions? Email reach.out@naturalmath.com

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Posted in Newsletter

Igramatica math circle in London: Interview with the leader

Svetlana Pancenko was inspired to start an after school math circle in London called Igramatica when she realized that all children are mathematicians, and can have the joy of exploring mathematics through games. There is math all around us, and Svetlana helps young children discover it. Here is Maria Droujkova’s interview about this adventure.


Can you describe a meeting of your group? How do you plan, what do the kids and adults do, and what happens after?

My colleague and I usually discuss and plan each lesson: the structure of the lesson, what games we’ll play and in what order we’ll play them, and what materials and handouts we need to prepare. During the lesson we always alternate active games with board games so that the children do not get bored or tired. The introductory part of each lesson is a fairy tale where all of the characters solve different mathematical and logical problems. We chose this way of presenting new topics because children like fairy tales and acting. You can keep the kids focused and entertained while including them in the process of problem solving along with the characters.  

Igramatica

The main things we do in our math circle are different active games, board games, construction, and combination. For our construction games we use lolly sticks, bricks, LEGO, mosaics, tangram, ornaments – either with instructions to follow or with using the imagination, which children like more. Symmetry has been our favorite last year. I can see how kids get the rhythm and enjoy the beauty of what they build. The combination part is about finding different combinations: how many handshakes are between 5 friends, how many roads are between fairy tales character’s houses, how to make a lion-goose or rhino-lion, how many ways we can build a pyramid out of three different colored rings.

Each game aims at developing the children’s mathematical, logical, and analytical thinking using their imaginations and abstract thinking. That’s why these lessons are suitable for kids with different abilities.

Igramatica

All parents are welcome to participate in the lessons and play with their kids in the group. We believe most parents need to learn how to play with kids so that they can play at home, on vacations, or during long trips.

After the circle the kids have some time to play whatever games they want with each other. For example, they can use a whiteboard for drawing, or build anything they want with colored sticks. Meanwhile we discuss with parents (privately or in group) what to focus on mathematically with their kids at home. We discuss what the kids achieved, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and where they need a little extra help.

What made you want to start a children’s program? What helped you to start doing it, once you decided?

We were inspired to start a math circle by reading Zvonkin’s book “Math from Three to Seven.” At first our circle was only for two boys. It was obvious to us that the best way for kids to learn is through play and competition in games. So we examined methods of mathematical  teaching in different countries: The UK, Russia, USA, China, and Japan. We made comparative research and learned about the most interesting experiences. We tried many different games with our own kids. We saw how enthusiastic they were during these lessons, how they enjoyed themselves, and most importantly, we saw how easy it was for them to understand fundamental mathematical concepts through playing games. During the lessons we could observe kids’ reactions to each game and understand which games they liked, which needed to be corrected, and if we needed to make the games more challenging or more simple.  

Igramatica

Then our group gradually expanded: we invited our kids’ friends, neighbors, and classmates. All the kids were excited to come and play with math, listen to new stories, and participate in competitions or team games. So we decided to organize an after school club where kids could play and learn math.

Can you describe a memorable episode or anecdote from your meetings? Something that warms your heart! (You can share more than one such story.)

Some days I feel really energetic and satisfied after the lesson when everything I planned worked and the kids happily played and asked for more.

At one of our first math circles about fractions we cut up small pancakes and then ate all the pieces. When I decided to go back and refresh fractions for the kids a couple months later the first question from one boy when he heard the word “fraction” was: “Hurrah! Will we cut and eat pancakes again?”

Another story: we told a fairy tale about a little ant who hurried back home and counted the legs of bugs and spiders. In our math circle we made the bugs and spiders out of green and red grapes and toothpicks. Another “tasty story”, and the kids learned which creatures have 6 legs and which have 8.

In one lesson at the beginning of our circle I introduced coordinates to 4-5 year olds. It didn’t go to well until we used a chess board with small lids from water bottles and hid tic-tacs under them. The kids were intrigued to find and eat the tic-tacs, and this helped them understand where H2 or A8 was!

What other inspirations can you name?

We are happy to be a part of the Moebius Noodles network; it gives us so many new and fresh ideas on how to develop our club further. Our other inspirations are: Jane Katc’s Moscow based club which holds a lot of family math camps in different countries (http://janemouse.livejournal.com/), board games of “Banda umnikov”( http://bandaumnikov.ru/), and games shared by Nataliigromaster(http://nataliigromaster.blogspot.com/).

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself for working in groups?

The most difficult question :) I would advise myself to make my lessons more structured and use connections between them, and to not be afraid of repeating things and making them a bit more difficult each time.

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Posted in 1001 Circles & Leaders, Make & Grow

Introducing Number Island Adventure

We are excited to introduce you to our latest project here at Natural Math.Header-web

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an adventure for kids 3-5 to take with the help of a grown-up. The goal is to provide a preschool level experience that centers on the theme of numbers and number sense skills. We want to inspire math fun and simple math activities for young children. We’ve identified specific number sense skills, and we’ve created bridges to science, art, humanities, language, and more!

Currently the only island we have ready is our set of Sparks for Island Number 3.  Before we complete all the Sparks, we want to be sure we are on the right track and that our course organization is effective. So right now, we are looking for beta testers. We have three simple criteria for being able to be a beta tester.

Here’s our criteria:

  1. Have a child between the ages of 3-5. Or an older child struggling with math that could teach a younger friend in the age range of 3-5. (If you have a child of a different age and want to beta test, anyway, feel free. Just know the course was designed for preschool age.)
  2. Can try out at least 3 Sparks in the next two weeks (by July 22, 2016).
  3. Can give 30 minutes (or more) to fill out a feedback survey.

If you’d like to try out the activities and can commit to giving us written feedback, then we’d love to have you help us! If you have any questions about beta testing, you can email numbers@naturalmath.com.

Register HERE by “purchasing” the free beta testing option. You’ll receive a PDF link to a beta testers guide and a separate email with log in information.

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Posted in Make & Grow

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