mpsMOOC13 Observer June 24: Peer learning, video conference, mixed ages

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This is news from participants in the open online course Problem Solving for the Young, the Very Young, and the Young at Heart.

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Visit the course page.

Peer learning: here comes everybody!

As of this newsletter forty-two adventurous families, homeschool groups, and math circles said they will work with us to adapt our ten math problems. This July, we will peek into one another’s park meetings, classes, and conversations around the kitchen table. Here comes everybody: veterans with forty years of teaching experience and twenty-month-old toddlers; lovers of Minecraft and supporters of hands-on learning; people from Canada and Saudi Arabia; families with one kid and families with six kids; widely published researchers and beginner citizen scientists.

From the sign-up page:

I’m a long-time homeschooler, and most of my kids are now grown. I like to read (ideal vacation: an enormous library, complete with a comfy chair by the fireplace), and I like to play around with math ideas — for instance, I think Tanton’s Math Without Words is great! – Denise,

I am a special education middle school math teacher. I am a self-proclaimed technology nerd and math geek. I love finding new ways to engage my students with technology. My students that I will be working with are the kids I have for summer school. They are special ed and they are going into 6th grade in the fall. – Caryn Trautz

I am a professor of mathematics education — I design, evaluate, and theorize learning activities. I enjoy thinking about thinking. Here’s my lab page. – Dor Abrahamson

I’m a homeschooler dad whose 3 daughters aren’t as interested in math as their dad is. I like to give my kids random math verbal puzzles. The oldest one is very fast at computation, the middle one is very good with concepts. The third one is excited. – Bilal the dad

I’ve had a lifelong interest in math and math education — ranging from majoring in mathematics at University, to teaching elementary school 39 years ago, to starting a local math camp for middle schoolers as a volunteer, three years ago. I enjoy researching and putting together hands-on lesson plans for the camp. The camp website is – Andy Klee


Images by course participants Rodi Steinig, Denise Gaskins, David Wees, and Andy Klee

Video conference questions

One aspect of the course, the initial live conference, generated a lot of questions by email and at the knowledge hub. Here are some questions and answers.

  1. How do I prepare for the video conferences? – The general topic of the discussion is your dreams for mathematics and the kids. You can prepare by thinking about that topic.
  2. Is it going to be a one-to-one conversation, or will it involve other people too? – It will be one-on-one, but recorded for others to view later. I will ask permission to record before we begin. You can invite as many family or math circle members as you want!
  3. Is the video conference a prerequisite for taking the course? – The conference is a part of our sign-up process. It helps to prepare for the course tasks, and provides data for the citizen science study (namely, what people want for math and kids). It also establishes a chat channel with one of the organizers, so that it is easy for you keep asking questions later. Beyond this course, live communication opens up ways to collaborate and to learn that are not available otherwise.
  4. What if I don’t have a webcam, or my internet is slow? – In this case, we can talk in voice only.

Here is a video conference with Nikki Lineham, a fellow math geek:

Mixed ages? Any ages?

The description of the course says, “The course participants are families, math clubs, playgroups, and other small circles casually exploring adventurous mathematics with kids of any age.” The first research data is in: one of most frequent questions we get is, “Can my teen/four-year-old/grown-up significant other/toddler participate?” Yes!

Our authors Dr. James TantonDr. Maria Droujkova, and Yelena McManaman will help adapt the ten problems to all ages. Course participants will help adapt the ten problems to all ages. We will invite the kids to help adapt the ten problems to all ages. There will be a lot of adaptations! Then we will sort and organize them.

Here is a related question: can we adapt these materials for families with several kids, and for mixed-age math clubs? Can people of different ages be happy doing math together? Let us try! There are a lot of benefits to mixed-age learning. You can see a number of them in this diagram based on Free to Learn by Peter Gray.


Friends and supporters of the course

We received several letters with similar requests:

  • Can I follow the research and development efforts without a math club or kids to run the activities?
  • Can I just peek at what you do?

Yes, this is now possible! People can subscribe to receive the mpsMOOC13 Observer by email to follow our adventures. It won’t be the same as participating, but subscribers will receive some highlights from the course.

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