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This week, Maria Droujkova and Yelena McManaman presented a Science Cafe talk at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. It feels like being a special guest at a dinner party. We started with a short presentation about the science behind the baby algebra, answered questions at the podium for about an hour, and then chatted at the tables.
We have been going to Science Cafes for many years. But with math, always expect the unexpected! In this case, most visitors preceded their questions with short stories of their personal math horrors. Nothing like that had happened with other Cafe topics. People said it was very therapeutic to talk about fractions never making sense, or mindless timed drills, or being told girls can’t do math. Here is the full recording:
In the following months, we will be visiting Math Circles, parent groups, and homeschool coops to chat about playful, advanced math with young kids. Get a few friends together, and we can discuss your dreams, your worries, and cool math ideas. It only takes one computer with the internet to arrange that! Drop us an email if you want to learn more.
Our open online course on problem solving is finishing its second week. It will help to gather data on how to start Math Circles with local friends. People discuss how to adapt problems:
I had issues with some of the weaker math students not being able to figure anything out on their own, and/or in just giving up once someone else had figured out the problem. So something I’m doing with the next set is that I’ve created two sheets to hand out to everyone with the problems (I’m working with teens, so we’re mostly just working on paper). One is the list of problem-solving techniques from this MOOC (the ones we have so far, at least), and the other is my adaptation of Tanton’s problem-solving process from his Curriculum Inspiration essays. I’m hoping this will help some of the less-confident students to get beyond their “I don’t know how to do this” blockage. – Carol
From a teaching standpoint, I noticed that it is tricky to offer the kids guidance and support without leading them directly to the answer I wanted them to find. Asking open ended questions is not as easy as it sounds! – Andy
One very common issue is “too much exploration”! Children get very involved, first in posing versions of problems (rather than solving any), then in free play:
The strategy of getting the kids physically involved in acting out the problems worked great in terms of engaging them – they loved it. But it also gave them ample opportunity for distraction and play – they were not vastly invested in solving the problem, and needed frequent nudges from me to get very far in reaching an answer. I think it worked for open ended problems, but not so much for getting from a to b. A bit like trying to walk somewhere with young children in fact! It would be interesting to see how far they would have got without my prodding, although I suspect it would have ended up in piles of giggling children! – Miranda
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Talk to you again on July 30th!
Moby Snoodles, aka Dr. Maria Droujkova
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