Saturday, August 31, 2013

Letting Go

By Mica Angela Hendricks and daughter
My dear friend, Rachel Wynne, kindly emailed me the link I am about to share. It’s a blog post called “Collaborating with a Four-Year Old”. I just love it. It’s about a mom and her young daughter creating artwork together. The pictures are priceless, and the ideas about sharing and collaboration are profound.

“Those things you hold so dear cannot change and grow and expand unless you loosen your grip on them a little.” - Mica Angela Hendricks, The Busy Mockingbird

Monday, August 26, 2013

Stanford University: How to Learn Math

Image from Geometry Daily.

I can’t say enough about how fantastic Jo Boaler’s online math class was. I finished it yesterday.

Jo is a Stanford University professor, and she created a free, online class for teachers and parents called How to Learn Math. Students (there were approximately 35,000 people registered) watched videos, wrote responses to prompts, and completed other tasks at their own pace. Some are still finishing; the course ends September 28.

Jo is working on a course for young people now. She has published a book called What’s Math Got To Do With It. I’m convinced that whatever Jo does in the future, it will be great. Keep an eye on her.

In a nutshell, Jo is all about dispelling myths about who is good at math and who isn’t, evangelizing about the growth mindset work of Carol Dweck, and giving teachers ideas about effective math education. She advocates for math as an inquiry activity, and really seeing it in a totally different way than most of us were taught in school and continue to teach today.

In Jo’s words:

Mathematics classrooms should be places where students believe:

  • Everyone can do well in math.
  • Mathematics problems can be solved with many different insights and methods.
  • Mistakes are valuable, they encourage brain growth and learning.
  • Mathematics will help them in their lives, not because they will see the same types of problems in the real world but because they are learning to think quantitatively and abstractly and developing an inquiry relationship with math.

Machines to Materials

I just watched two PBS NOVA shows that I must share. One is called Making Stuff: Smaller. The other is Making Stuff: Stronger. There are other Making Stuff shows I haven’t watched yet.

Check these out! You can watch them for free online (at least right now you can).

As an educator and a parent, these videos get me all fired up. Young people should be learning about cutting edge science and math, not just the stuff of textbooks and standards. I want to show these to students and then I’d expect to hear them talking about wanting to be a chemist, material scientist, or nanotechnologist when they grow up.

My favorite part of Making Stuff: Smaller was the concept of starting by using a machine to complete a task, and then evolving to using a material to accomplish the same task. This is a key feature of miniaturization, which is what allows us to have laptops and cellphones, among other things, today. Computer processing went from giant rooms of vacuum tubes to silicon chips, but the story I liked the most was the journey from behemoth pendulum clocks to quartz watches. If this makes no sense to you, watch the video.

Another awesome story in Making Stuff: Smaller is about driving a tiny robot around inside someone’s eyeball to deliver medicine. Holy cow!