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

Crowdfunding at 80%, summer kids math, Reddit AMA: Newsletter June 24

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Avoid Hard Work: crowdfunding is almost at 80%

Avoid Hard Work is our newest book. It gives a playful view on ten powerful problem-solving techniques, originally published by the Mathematical Association of America for advanced high school students – and now, made accessible for children ages 3 (yes! three!) and up.  Go to the book page to try activities from the sample pages, watch James Tanton’s pirate island story, and read about our worry-dreams.

Thank you so much to everybody who contributed! We will always remember you by name – and it will be in the book.

Summer Online Camps for Children: June 27 and August 8

Download and try sample activities for your children, Inspired by Calculus for ages 5-9 and Camp Logic for ages 9-14. If you like what you see, sign up for a week of daily mathematical joy! Starting June 27 and August 8.

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Reddit adventure: AMA – Ask Me Anything

AMA MariaDroujkova

 

Dr. Maria Droujkova did a question and answer live event called Ask Me Anything on Reddit. There are 850+ comments there – what a friendly and interested discussion it had been! Here are a couple of more upvoted exchanges.

Q: Why do so many children (and adults) hate advanced math? Is it how it’s taught, or what is taught?

A: It’s a deep question, and I’d like to warn that the answer is somewhat disturbing in its implications. Yes, some of it is WHAT is taught – the number crunching without patterns, the primitive yet tedious topics instead of beautiful adventures of the mind, medieval content not linked to current trends. The “what” part is relatively easy to address: there are wonderful materials out there! Innovative books, cool computer simulations, hands-on construction sets, etc.

And a part of the problem HOW math is taught: we do need to mind what we know about human learning, such as spaced repetition for memory, the power of multiple examples that come from your peer group, the motivation of making mathematics your own.

Yet the most difficult part that tends to stay off-screen is WHY math is taught. Advanced math is taught as a gatekeeper, as a means not to starve. It trickles all the way down – I hear parents of children as young as five or six say that if they don’t push math now, the child will fail forever. To quote a presentation: “Why do we need to know multiplication? One reason is that multiplication is on many tests kids take. The story goes like this: if kids don’t know multiplication facts, they will fail tests, which means they won’t get into college, which means no career, which means epic fail of the whole life. For want of a nail, the kingdom is lost.”

So people hate math because they learn it out of fear. How can we help kids learn math for meaningful, joyful, loving reasons? That’s what it’s all about…

Q: Ok, I get how a 5 year old could probably understand limits but please explain to me how the average 5 year old can understand differentiation and integration?

A: Imagine an interesting shape, like the Millennium Falcon. How much space does it occupy? Or maybe, how much plastic would you need to 3D print it? Now, imagine building that spaceship out of LEGO blocks. You can then count the blocks to estimate the volume. This, in a nutshell, is integration: building a shape out of easy, simple little shapes.


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 Make & Grow, Newsletter

Funville Adventures beta testing; Avoid Hard Work campaign at 25%! Newsletter June 14

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Get involved: Funville Adventures beta testing

Functions of Funville

The goals of this two-day workshop are 1) to give parents and teachers new tools for introducing children to mathematical concepts in the form of fantasy stories and 2) to help Sasha Fradkin and Allison Bishop, the authors of the upcoming book Funville Adventures, beta test a chapter of the book.

  • What: A two-day online workshop on introducing mathematical concepts through stories, for children ages 5 to 10. Topics include functions, rotations, geometry, and problem-solving.
  • Why: Learn how to teach your children mathematical concepts through a fantasy adventure story.
  • Who: Parents, teachers, and math circle leaders with their children, with Dr. Sasha Fradkin and Dr. Allison Bishop as organizers.
  • When: Monday, June 20th, 7-8 PM and Thursday, June 23, 7-8 PM Eastern Time (New York)
  • Where: Online video-talk software Zoom (similar to Skype)
  • Price: Free.
  • Supplies: A few cylindrical objects such as cans, a ruler, twine, scissors.
  • What if we can’t come to the live event? You can sign up to read Funville chapters, do the activities on your own, and discuss them with us by email.

Go to the workshop page for more information about the project.


Avoid Hard Work: crowdfunding is at 25%

Avoid Hard Work is our newest book. It gives a playful view on ten powerful problem-solving techniques. The techniques were originally published by the Mathematical Association of America for advanced high school students – and we made them accessible for children ages 3 (yes! three!) and up. The book is for parents, teachers, math circle leaders, and others who work with children. Go to the book page to try activities from the sample pages, watch James Tanton’s pirate island story, and read about our worry-dreams.

Want to get involved in this awesome project? Join the crowdfunding campaign, check out the rewards, and post info about it to other parent and educator groups!

Crowdfund Avoid Hard Work

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 Make & Grow, Newsletter

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