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How do you know you are actually learning something? Usually, through testing. But how do you or your children feel facing a math test someone else inflicts? Many people find that scary and stressful. Yet total freedom from progress-tracking may sap motivation and make it hard to pursue big goals.
Computer games have levels and achievements that not only orient players within the game, but also add spice and motivation. Scientists also work on tracking progress in meaningful ways. Why not adopt these gamer or scientist techniques, in ways that make sense for you?
For example, check out this heat map for a group of children memorizing times tables. Think of your own maps you and your child can build. Which multiplication facts take you the longest to recall or figure out? Is your map symmetric, or do you also find 7*6 slightly easier than 6*7? And what does your map say about ways you can improve your number sense and fluency?
Our online course Multiplication Explorers helps participants learn these mapping tools. Here is an example: a work-in-progress map a teen created for reviewing times tables through patterns, a.k.a. “facts I don’t need to memorize.”
The next session of the course starts February 9th. Join with your family, math circle, or class!
199 families and groups signed up for the course as of this writing. We love to read notes from participants explaining why they join, so here are a few:
One of our ongoing projects is making calculus radically accessible. As in “a five-year old can do it” accessible. That’s why we started an informal survey. Maria Droujkova recently presented at the Joint Math Meetings, the largest math gathering in the world. She used this opportunity to ask the conference participants these questions:
We also took the survey to our blog and to Twitter. Here are some responses. Wouldn’t it be great if children learned that from calculus?
You can view more responses and share your ideas on our blog.
James Tanton is one of our favorite mathematics educators. He recently created a neat learning manifesto full of ideas you can use to share meaning, relevance, and joy of mathematics – with the unexpected title of, “What is the Common Core and what is it really trying to do?” On her video blog Math Accent, Maria Droujkova responds with, “What is James really trying to do?”
What do you think?
The richly illustrated story Lisa McCarville shared in January is one of the most-read on our blog. Lisa’s family deals with their special needs with care and creativity. Check out detailed instructions on DIY math manipulatives, and see why storytelling makes the world of difference.
Lisa writes: “The most important reason why I do what I do is these looks of happiness from my son. He loves learning this way. He uses what he learns in his own studies of art, drawing spaceships and futuristic communities using these shapes and patterns. He can synthesize what he learns and make it meaningful to his own interests. My goal is for him to be a lifelong learner and I think that making math enjoyable, practical and engaging leads to that goal.”
Want to share a math story, a short observation, or just a cute phrase your child said? Send it our way!
We are growing. Can you help? Join our adventures!
Part-time paid positions
Spend quality time with engaged people working on meaningful mathematics! You can volunteer as little as an hour per month. Our current volunteers include teens, parents, university researchers, software developers, retired professionals, social media activists, and creative writers. This is perfect for people who want more active but still casual engagement, or want to ramp up their skillset and resume.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about work or volunteering.
See you online! Dr. Maria Droujkova, Yelena McManaman, and the Natural Math crew
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Activities, courses, books, and games by and for the Natural Math community.
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