Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Bunching Words to Consolidate Concepts

Bunching? What's that?

What is bunching? This is something we use in chapel and RAVE (Religious and Values Education) with our awesome chaplain, Father Richard. We generate a word bank of ideas related to a topic (Fear; Love; Compassion; Lonely) and then kids are asked to find words that they can "bunch" together to tell a story or explain an idea.

When we were doing this on Monday, looking at "The Good Life" as our theme, the potential for extension into other curricular areas hit me. I began to have ideas for how to use this with maths. 

Bunching Maths Concepts and Vocabulary

I made a collection of cards with words related to maths concepts prior to activity to have up my sleeve.

I introduced kids to the idea of the importance of language in understanding ideas and concepts, a link to a previous lesson on numbers and numeration focusing on the concept of "zero". (If there was no word for zero, do you think people had the idea/concept of zero?)

Next, I asked kids to suggest words that are used specifically in maths lessons. If I had a prepared card, I placed it on the floor. If not, then I wrote one out and put it down.

This continued until we had a good selection of 20 or more words.

Then I asked the kids to find words that they could "bunch" together to make a statement about mathematics. Here's a few examples:

"A half is a fraction."

"A number plus another number equals a new number."

"If you have a numerator and a denominator you can make a fraction."

"A half is a fraction but it can be a percentage too."

"When you do division with a number you might get a fraction as the answer."

"Some fractions are less than a quarter."

"Division is like multiplication but going backwards."

So what?

Well, I found this interesting because:
  • kids got to verbalise their understandings. This is important for learning to happen, for knowledge to be consolidated, for kids to move "to the next level". Even stating the obvious things like "a half is a fraction" or "a number plus another number equals a new number" helps them to clarify their understanding.
  • it helps me as a teacher see what the kids are thinking, what they know, what relationships they can see. It's an insight into their inner workings.
  • it gave the kids and I an opportunity to relate to maths in a transdisciplinary way - maths is words as well as numbers.
  • it gives us a springboard for further questions and conversations. Things like, "Does a number plus a number always equal a new number?" "What fractions are less than a quarter?" "How is division the same as multiplication but backwards?" 
Looks like I've got tomorrow's lesson all sorted...

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Top 10 Maths Songs

My Top 10 Maths Songs

Well, reports are written and I can now relax and be a bit flippant. 
Here is my Top 10 list of Mathematical Songs. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

10. Rikki Don't Loose that Number - Steely Dan 

Some good advise from a team of dedicated mathematicians who know the importance of keeping track of all your digits.

9. Multiplication - Bobby Darrin 

This was one of those clever 50's songs built around very subtle innuendo and probably the single most influential song in the subsequent baby boom.

8. Number of the Beast - Iron Maiden 

A very funny piece forever linking mathematics with animal welfare.

7. I've Got Your Number - Passion Pit

A popular title for a song, it seems. I like the versions by Passion Pit and Elbow, but who ever has got the number, maybe they could give it back to Rikki?

6. Love Potion Number 9 - The Clovers 

Originally by The Clovers (and covered by many since).

5. Nothing Can Divide Us - Jason Donovan 

A 1988 treatise on prime numbers that proves conclusively
that not every song released in the 80's was good.

4. Can't Take That Away - Mariah Carey 

Advice from Mariah when the subtrahend is larger than the minuend

3. What's the Difference? - Dr Dre 

Demonstrating that hip rapsters are still interested in maths

2. Jenny (8675309) - Tommy Tutone 

In defence of 80's classics, this song implanted a love of numbers into the minds of a generation of impressionable young boys.

1. One is the Loneliest Number - Three Dog Night

Well, what other song could be #1?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Assess this!

Assessment time again...

Yes - like most of the rest of the teachers on the planet, we are in "assessment mode" right now. Not to say that we don't do continual formative assessment on a daily basis but when the time comes to write reports, we crank out the formal summative tools (ie. pencil and paper tests) just to check our suspicions about our kids. 

And here's a response I got from one of my darlings...

The Task

So the task at hand was to re-write a number in words. Not too much of a challenge, I agree, and probably more to do with Literacy than Numeracy but hey, if you're going to play with numbers you probably should know how to write them. 

I was factoring in some room to maneuver with the spelling (hence the request to "give the spelling your best shot") and therefore I was prepared to accept "threety" as a confused version of "thirty".

But..."two"? He'd got the hard bit - "Sixty five thousand one hundred and..." part right. But what to do with the "two" bit?

At first I gave it a tick - he obviously knew about place value, which was my main concern. His spelling was pretty good. He had things in the right order. Tick - can write 5-digit number in words.

Then hang on, thinks I. The number he wrote is not the number I wanted to read. So it's a fail on the fact that he has communicated a different number. Getting this wrong can have huge consequences.

Writing "4" as "two" might be the difference between getting back from the moon or spending the rest of your days orbiting some distant celestial body. 
A mistake like that might cost your company billions in the next global financial meltdown. 

Or if you were expecting the Fantastic Four and only two of them turned up.

Or you went to see the Fab Four and there was only John and Ringo.

So I gave it a cross.

Then I consulted a respected colleague, Capitano Amazing, in the room next door. He was all for giving the cross and marking it wrong.


I now have this problem because I wasn't explicit enough in my own mind about what I was assessing; I am unresolved when I get a student response that only partially fulfills my expectations.

Note to self...

In future - design assessment activities that are going to be measured using well-articulated learning intentions.