Thursday, October 13, 2011
Out of the mouths...
We had a math specialist called Tom visit our classroom yesterday. He was a spry 62 year old with a graying ponytail and a deep, resonant voice. He drew a circle on our carpet with a piece of chalk, had the kids sit cross-legged with him around the outside and gave each of them a baggie filled with plastic math cubes. Then he tossed paper plates at them like low flying frisbees and told them how many cubes they would need - 12 blue and 12 green. He filled his own plate and commented, "Kinda looks like planet earth, doesn't it?" Immediately all the kids stirred their cubes with their fingers, mixing them up. "Well," said one. "Mine looks more like my mom's Jello."
For an hour and a half Tom had the kids snap the cubes together in various combinations - seven blue and three green, for example. Then he had them make their sticks match by moving colors so they had doubles, removed one from a stick and put it on the other to make doubles plus one, etc. The kids loved it. As always there was one child who pulled his cubes apart so violently they went flying, and another who just sat and looked on glumly without participating. Tom instructed them all to place their cubes in front of them and put their hands on their knees. "Now," he said, looking around at them in a measured way. "Here's the deal. If you can make your cubes behave as they should, just sticking and unsticking, they can play with you. If they can't behave, they have to go back in the bag." There were no more flying cubes. To the child who didn't participate, he said, "I'm having a bit of trouble here. Can you help me?" and with gentle questions he helped her to see what he was doing with his cubes.
An hour and a half is a long time to sit still. At the end of the session Tom had a bit of difficulty rising up from the floor. Several children rushed to help him. One little fellow was having trouble himself. "Man," he said, turning to me, one hand on his head, the other on the small of his back. "Learning hurts!"