Around the time I started posting these Math Mondays, I started up a Creative Math Club for other creative, visual, right brain thinkers. Typically, elementary and middle school math is not considered all that creative, visual, or right brained. Thus, the struggle for so many kids who just give up in the midst of all the arithmetic and rules. The ironic twist is that, for the most part, the further you go in math, the more theoretical and mental/visual it gets. By the time you reach that point, though, most kids have weeded themselves out.
An interesting thing about Naturalist is that while she struggles doing computation, she can take any shape and deconstruct it in her head. She can take a cube, ‘unroll’ it, roll it back up again in a different formation, make it 2D, twist it around, and pop it back up into 3D. If you give her a deconstructed 2D shape, she can construct it in her head and tell you what 3D shape it will make. Somewhere in the higher level math world, there is a practical application for that. I never made it that far, though, so I don’t know.
Anyway, the goal of Creative Math Club is to take the higher level creativity and put it into elementary/middle school math. It’s tricky, but do-able.
This time, we all met up at my trampoline. Because when I say “math”, I want the association to be with something fun, and what’s more fun than a trampoline?! How about a trampoline and chalk?!
The kids played for a bit, we adults talked for a bit, and then I brought out some schematics of a circle (here and here) to the older group of kids. These were to be reproduced onto the trampoline, and they did a fabulous job. Once it was transfered, we played a game of Simon Says. (Note: I was prepared for this game to either fall flat with the young kids, or with the older kids, and so move on, but everyone ended up enjoying themselves with it.)
First, the basic stuff to get them accustomed to the circle and the game:
Simon says, jump on the circumference.
Simon says, put your elbow on the center.
Simon says, put a toe on the secant.
Simon says, run around a half circle.
Even if they didn’t know what the word meant I was talking about, they quickly got it, either by watching someone else or by looking at the diagram. The beauty of a game like this is that even the 4 and 5 year olds participated. By the end, they knew where to find the secant, or chord, or tangent. Game learning is all inclusive!
Then, once everyone was comfortable with the vocabulary, we got a little crazy.
Simon says, put a toe on the circumference and an elbow on a chord. (if a kid was too far away from something, then they hollered out and someone would draw one by them)
Simon says, everyone form one diameter across the circle (this took some teamwork)
Simon says, make a radius with your body. (this was cool, because each radius ended up dividing the circle into fractions of a circle)
Simon says, make a tangent with your body. (This was my favorite, because they unexpectedly formed a nonagon around the trampoline.)
Simon says, jump on the line segment with the two endpoints on the circumference. Note, at no time did I define ‘line segment’ or ‘endpoint’, but they all kind of looked around and found what fit…the chord…because visual kids can infer things easier than they can sit and listen to boring definitions.
As we moved around the trampoline, the chalk kept erasing off of it. This gave the older kids a chance to redraw the geometric diagrams with chalk. I love this kind of natural repetition, because my kids hate to do anything twice (or more) if they can help it. When it’s fun, it allows for more leeway.
We ended up playing this game for much longer than I thought anyone would want to, and by the time we were finished they had a nose, elbow, knee, finger, ear, and foot on just about every part of a circle at one point or another.
Then, for kicks, we measured the circumference of the trampoline in string and stretched it out to see how long it was.
All in all, a good time was had by all! Find a trampoline and try it out!