Tagged math

Percent Math Game

I’m writing this blog as a resource for any others who like math and games. It’s a math game. The math group that meets bi-weekly has really enjoyed playing, so I thought it would be fun to share with others.

We have started working how to calculate percent, and I thought it would be fun to play a game with some real life scenarios involved. This game helps you practice calculating tips at a restaurant, sales tax, and how much money off when something is on sale.

Materials: 

  • Playing Cards, printed on blue, white, or green card stock
    • White: Restaurant cards – make receipts & scenarios. You can see my examples in the link, but I suggest using restaurants your students would actually go to with items they recognize. Making people they know the waiters/waitresses in the scenarios can be fun too.
    • Blue: Sales tax cards – look up what the sales tax is in your state.
    • Green: On sale cards – I used items that I thought the kids would like to buy.
  • Game Board with green, blue, and white spaces. We just printed this on paper and laminated it.
  • Die

Mini lesson before playing:

I asked if the kids notice at restaurants that their parents leave tips for the servers. All of them knew this. I asked them if they knew how much most servers make, and some didn’t realize how little their hourly wage was. I explained that this is why it’s customary to tip here in the states. Not all cultures have this practice though, which I also told them about.

I let them know that it’s common to give 18% gratuity. Having been a server before, I told them that I would always leave a tip, even if the service wasn’t great because I know how hard it is. I also know that sometimes it’s the kitchen who messed up, not the server. I explained that it would have to a terrible experience for me to leave only 10%, and many times I tip 20%.

Then I said, “If I told you that I was happy about 90% of the time, does it mean that I am happy most of the time?” I gave a few other examples like this to reinforce the concept that a percent is part of a whole. Anything over 50% is more than half of the whole, 25% is a quarter of the whole, 20% is 1/5, 75% is 3/4, and other benchmarks like this.

Then we went over strategies to calculate percent. I like reminding the kids that there are many ways to find answers to mathematical problems. I tell them that different strategies are like tools you put in your toolkit. You can use different ones in different orders to figure out what you want to figure out. Sometimes I may give them a tool, sometimes they come up with one, sometimes they learn it from a peer, or their parents. To me, it’s really fun to try out different ways to figure out problems.

The strategies we came up with:

  1. The Halving Strategy: It’s easy to halve any number. Then you can find 50%, 25%, or 12.5% or 6.25%

If you are estimating, this works just fine. Let’s say you want to leave a 18% tip, and the bill is $45. Half of $45, or 50% is $22.50. Half of that, or 25% is 11.25. Half of that, or 12.5% is about $5.62. Picking a number between 20% and 12.5% will get you close to 18%.

2. The Ten Percent Strategy: It’s easy to find 10% of any number by moving the decimal place to the left one time. If your bill is $4, 10% is 4.50, and 20% is just that number, doubled, or $9, so you can calculate a 20% tip like that.

You could do this for calculating any percent off as well. If something is discounted 30%, well, multiply 10% by three.

You can use this strategy to find 5%. Just halve 10%. If sales tax is about 5%, well find 10%, halve it, and you have the 5% tax.

3. Multiplication: Using a calculator or paper and pencil, you can just multiply to find the answer. The kids in this group have spend time practicing the multiplication algorithm. While I’ve shared the strategy of just counting up how many decimal places there are in the problem and making that the same in the answer, I prefer for them to first estimate and make sense of the problem and decide where the decimal point goes logically.

For example, if you are finding what 85% of 60 is, I have the kids say what the answer would be close to. In this example, it’s going to most of the number, 50% of 60 is 30, and 100% of 60 is 60, so the number is inbetween 30 and 60.

If you use paper and pencil to multiply 85 x 60, you get 5100. Where does it make sense to put the decimal place? The only logical place is 51.00 because that is between 30 and 60.

Of course, using a calculator you would just type in .85 x 60 🙂

 

How to Play:

The kids take turns rolling the die. The color they land on determines the card they take, whether it’s a receipt & scenario card, a tax card, or a sale card.

The rule we use is that no one helps unless they ask for help, and we create space and time for people to think. Some do all the calculation in their heads and some use paper and pencil.

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We have been having “picnic math” where we lay out a blanket and eat and play this math game.

 

Variations: 

  • Ditch the board and kids just pull the cards they want. The kids I work with love the restaurant cards and just taking turns with these back and forth.
  • Create variations that are for different skills. I have receipts that have no cents and receipts with cents and the kids choose the difficulty level they want to have.

What I like about the restaurant cards is that the kids choose the percent they tip. A child can tip 50% if they want, and that’s fine and easy to calculate. Some kids want to make it hard for themselves to figure out so they will choose 18%, or even something like 6%. So starting with just restaurant cards would be a good way to go if you have someone in your group that is hesitant to calculate in front of people.

Fortunately, the vibe with the kiddos I am working with is really supportive. They like challenges and it’s not a big deal to get problems wrong. I think this game has been big hit because it involves real life situations they they have encountered before. I’ve had kids sharing with me that they have asked to calculate their parents tips at restaurants and this is so fun to hear!

I think playing this game as often as the kids want is great for several reasons:

  • It solidifies the understanding that fractions and percents are a part of a whole.
  • They get to practicing using easy benchmark fractions/percents with a variety of numbers.
  • They are making logical sense of the situation around the calculations so they are not just following step by step rules to solve a problem, but also making sense of what they are doing.

Later we will move on to doing more with fractions, but this game gives them lots of practice so they can understand part-whole relationships that I can help them build on.

If you try the game out, let me know in the comments. If you know other strategies you want to share, also type that in the comments!

Spawn Point Vignette

Please enjoy a Spawn Point Vignette published in Tipping Points Magazine in December 2016! I have copied and pasted the content below, the format is a lot prettier from the original publication.


I walk into the Quiet Room, the home of my Spawn Point, after our clean up time. At an Agile Learning Center, a Spawn Point is a small group of students and a facilitator who start and end their day together. It’s about 3:10pm. Clean up keeps getting easier and faster, I think to myself. I look at the facilitation sign up board and see that Evan is facilitating this afternoon.

“Hey Evan, Ayan and Elisha are going to be here in a few minutes.” I see he’s moved the magnets on our GameShifting board to Connection Activity –> Game.

“Hey Nancy,” he says, “I was thinking we could play the game where someone is blindfolded and then they try to walk across the room with our directions.”

For some reason when he tells me this, a big light bulb goes off in my head. Last week I learned about a game I really wanted to play with the kids, but I drew a complete blank on the rules when I was at school. All of a sudden the directions to the game come to me and I can’t help but share.

“Oh, I do like that game, but Evan, remember last week when I forgot the rules to the new game I wanted to play? It just came to me right now. Can I explain it?”

“Sure.”

“This is a game where we get to test our mind connections, like a telepathy game. One person looks around the room and writes down 5 objects they see. These objects have to be small enough that we can pick them up and put them on the table. They don’t show anyone their list. When they say go, everyone else goes around and picks up an object and brings it to the table. We try to see how many matches we get!”

Leyla, Tessa and A.J. perk up, chiming in that they want to try this game.

“Can I pick the objects?” Leyla asks, directing the question to Evan, our facilitator.

“Okay we can try it,” he responds.

“Hey Ev, we really don’t have to play this game, I just wanted to share the rules while I remembered them. I love the blindfold game too and would be happy to play.” I really didn’t want Evan to feel like we had to switch games. I have no name for this game and cannot remember where I learned about it. I have no idea why I couldn’t remember it last week, and why it jumped into my head today.

“I want to pick objects.” Leyla says, hoping we will still play the new game.

“It’s fine, we can try this game,” Evan says.

I toss Leyla a post-it pad and a marker. Just as she uncaps the marker the write, Ayan, Elisha, and Tom come in. Tom is visiting from Australia for two weeks. He and his wife are planning to open a school in January of 2018. Tom really wanted to see an ALC in action before they opened, so here he is!

“You’re just in time for our game!” I say, and explain the rules. We sit quietly as Leyla writes. She looks around and is really deliberate and thoughtful about her choices. I look around the room and observe quietly to myself all the objects that look small enough to put on the table. I see the workbooks on the desk, the hands-on equation set, a little painted peg-person on the shelf. That peg-person should be in the basket by the blocks. I make a mental note to put it back where it belongs later. I see the singing bowl, the spirit animal cards, the dry erase markers, my shoes. Would she choose my shoes? I don’t want to put those on the table.

“What would Leyla think to choose?” I say aloud. “This game will give us the opportunity to focus on Leyla and think about what she would pick out in the room. Right now, I’m trying to see the room through her eyes.”

Leyla smiles as she continues to add to the list. She’s not quite done yet when Evan gets up and moves Penguin, our school stuffed animal/therapy toy, to the table.

“Hey Evan, she’s not even done yet,” someone tells him.

“Yeah, let’s wait for her to finish first. Are you almost done, Leyla?” I’m an adult and I’m getting a little antsy, so I completely understand Evan’s excitement to get started. Evan puts Penguin back and waits for her to finish.

Leyla nods, writes one more thing down, and then says she’s done. Before she says “Go!” everyone is up and moving, thinking about what object they want to pick.

The room is pretty quiet. I stand up and turn around to face the altar I have set up against the white bookshelf. I scan the room. I reach for the turkey feather on the altar, but hesitate. Is this what I want to choose? My hand says yes, it’s still reaching out for it as my mind hesitates. I go for it, placing it on the table. I guess I’m just going with my first gut instinct.

This time Evan places a pen on the table. Someone grabs the game of Dixit. A few other items are placed. Finally, Tom grabs the guitar and puts in on the table, the last item. We all look at Leyla, excitedly seeing if we got any of the items correct.

“Do you want me to tell you?” she says, with a smile on her face.

“Yes!!” we all cry.

“It was Penguin, the feather, Dixit, the guitar, and a magnet.” We look at the table. All of us are shocked that three out of five items are actually there.

“Evan, do you realize that your first instinct was to have Penguin on the table? That would be four out of five items we got!” I say, still amazed that we actually got so many of the items correct. I thought we’d be lucky to guess one correctly.

“I’m putting it back!” he says, moving the pen out of the way to make a spot for Penguin. The rest of the kids seem to be in agreement that Evan’s initial item should count. We clean up and then sit in a circle to look at our intentions from the day.

A GameShifting Board helps facilitate group gatherings.

“Okay, let’s go turns in a circle,” Evan starts. “No, wait, we’ll go in board order.” He moves the magnet under Communication Style from turns in a circle to board order.

“Hmmm,” he ponders, taking a few moments to stare up at the board. Then Evan leads us around the board, checking in with everyone about what they intended to do that day, and if they got to do it or not. We each have our turn and share. Then, after the last person is finished, Evan walks halfway across the small room, looking up at the clock.

“Okay, it’s 3:23,” he says, smiling broadly back at us.

“Wow, Evan,” I say, actual tears brimming up behind my eyes. “Do you realize that you set the intention to learn to tell time about two weeks ago, and now you know how to do it?” His smile gets even bigger, “Yeah.” Words can’t begin to describe the feeling I have inside. Here’s a kid who knows how to learn. He learns when he’s ready, on his own time table.

A few weeks ago, Evan decided he wanted to learn how to read an analog clock so Melissa, one of my co-facilitators and his mom, found some resources online to support his interest. Evan’s motivation was clear and remained steady. He spent a couple mornings using some worksheets to identify the time, and would constantly test his knowledge on the analog clocks to check his own accuracy. Now, he’s mastered this skill.

Last month Evan decided he wanted to learn how to ride a bike, and last week he biked 6 miles from school to Uptown and back. After watching Evan learn to ride a bike at age 10, Melissa told me, “It just goes to show you that when they are ready, they will learn, and they will learn easily. I could’ve spent a lot of time worrying about how he couldn’t ride a bike, but I’m happy I just let it go so he could do it when he was ready. I think this is a great reminder about reading too. I think if more kids were able to just wait to read when they were ready, it would happen a lot easier for them.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I look at Evan’s face, and I see that he feels really good about himself. It feels great to decide you want a new skill, then to go after it and master it.

“We still have time for a game,” he tell us. Now I can see he understands how many minutes away from 3:30 we are! We dismiss at 3:30.

“Oh how about a magic trick?” Ayan asks. I hear murmurs of “Yes!” coming from the girls sitting on the couch.

“I want to play the object game again, can I be the person who writes the list?” Elisha pipes up. The kids are directing their requests to Evan, who is back by the GameShifting board, considering how he would like us to spend the last few minutes of the day. He picks up a jar filled with popsicle sticks that has been sitting on the small shelf that props up the GameShifting board. Again, here is another item I need to remember to put away, I think. Like the peg person, I have no idea how this got left here. It’s a math game that belongs in the storage closet.

“I want to play Kaboom.” Evan looks around the room, and I can see he is filled with certainty about playing this game.

“Cool,” I say with a shrug, “I’ve never played it before, but I’m happy to play whatever you want.” Here I am trying to make up for derailing his earlier game choice! I’m still feeling a little bad about that.

“Okay, I’ll tell you how to play. It’s a game my mom made.” He continues to explain how there are multiplication problems on the bottom of each stick. You pull a stick out, answer the problem, and then if you get it right you can keep the stick. If you pull out a stick that says “Kaboom!” you have to put all your sticks back in. You can make the game shorter or longer by setting the winning number of sticks higher or lower. He decides we’ll play to the amount of 6 sticks.

We begin passing around the jar, pulling out multiplication problems. They are all one digit by one digit for the most part, the only two digit problems involving tens. The game was made when Melissa was trying to support kids in finding fun ways to memorize their multiplication tables. I look around, seeing how happy and calm the kids are as they play.

The jar gets to our youngest Spawn Point member, who is 7.

“Hmmm… 3 times 1,” she ponders. I sit back and just observe what will happen. A.J. is a new student at school. I have no idea if she even knows what multiplication is. “I don’t know.”

One of the other other kids tells her it’s 3. That any number times one is just the number.

The jar continues around the circle, and then it’s back to A.J. again. “3 times 4,” she reads aloud.

“A.J. hasn’t learned multiplication yet,” her sister, Leyla, tell us.

“Oh that’s no big deal,” I say. “Hey A.J., so multiplication is just adding a number multiple times. 3 times 4 means you add 3, 4 times. 3 plus 3, plus 3, plus 3.”

She starts counting on her fingers, then looks up and says, “12!” The jar continues around the circle.

The jar keeps moving.

Back to A.J. again. “6 x 3” she reads. Short pause, and she is counting on her fingers. “18.”

Rose, Bud, Thorn

Every month, the facilitators at both our older and younger campuses gather for an informal meeting where we check-in with each other. The goal is help us feel connected as one campus even though we are apart and to share facilitation stories so we can support one another.

Yesterday we loosely followed a “Rose, Bud, Thorn” format that some of our branches kids enjoy doing. The rose is something wonderful we are celebrating or happy about, the bud is something we are excited about happening in the future, and the thorn is a challenge we are experiencing.

I didn’t get a chance to share then due to lack of time, so I thought I’d simply share my current Rose, Bud, and Thorn here in this blog post!

My Roses:

Our Change Up meetings

We’ve changed how we do change up, and it’s increased the ability of students to participate. We go through the items on our Community Mastery Board as efficiently as we can. If there is a topic or awareness that feels like it needs some creative problem solving, we pull it aside as a “focus topic.” We try to limit this to 4 focus topics, and one of those topics is usually a wish a kid or adult has made for the school. The kids work in small groups to discuss a hot topic for 10 minutes and then present a solution for the school to try out for the next week. One example of this is when small group worked on granting a wish about building connection among students. The kids in this group decided that scheduling two group games a week with everyone participating is a fun way to do this! We’ve been practicing this for two weeks now and I’m excited to continue this practice as long as the kids are too.

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At a Change-Up meeting focus group, the kids came up with a new way to choose weekly clean up jobs. After they took charge of the change, it became easy to gather the kids and select jobs – and they seem more engaged with the clean up job too 🙂

There are kids who are contributing to the culture creation at our school through these small groups that were not speaking up before when we did our Change-Up meetings as a whole group. Even though each kid isn’t a part of creating each solution, the buy-in to adhere to proposed solutions feels much higher because the kids understand how much thought it takes to come up with a potential solution. I am loving that this feels like true co-creation of the culture with kids. @tomis blogged much more deeply about this Change Up “change-up” here.

More Parent Volunteers

Two of our parents, Kristine & Melissa, have become more involved at school this year and it has been really fun to have them at school! They have been making meaningful relationships with the kids and sharing neat and unique offerings.

Melissa likes to do various crafts with the kids and take them to the library. I really enjoyed making life-sized paper versions of ourselves with her and the kids. She also brought singing songs together to our space this week, which I loved joining!

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Making life-sized versions of ourselves.

Kristine is an avid member of the girl scout troop with her daughter and is bringing neat activities to share from her experiences there. She introduced Biztown to the kids (a program run through Junior Achievement) and the kids are learning about financial literacy and how adults make, spend, and manage their money. This includes “playing” adult as they set up mock-checking accounts and apply for jobs that they will play out in the Biztown city in Uptown, Charlotte. You can watch more about Biztown below.

Amy Steinberg Theater Classes

The kids used all their left over money from last year and the money they made in the summer to hire Amy Steinberg to lead theater classes with them. The dedication they have to this 2 hour weekly class is really cool to see, as well as Amy’s direct and clear leadership of the class. While yes, we are unschoolers at heart and the kids lead their own paths, they have chosen to hire this person to instruct them. Amy has boundaries she sets around how to participate and makes those known and has expectations for the kids to meet. And they love it! They have learned some really cool games that help improve their focus, concentration and work on spacial awareness as they learn about stage directions.

What I’ve learned from seeing this is that I’d like to see the kids have more of the supply/facilitation budget to choose the classes and teachers they have at school so they 1) take complete ownership over what they get out of the experience and 2) are invested and committed to what they bring in.

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Love for Reading Flourishing and Visible

I mentioned the library trips becoming a regular thing, but we also have fun book/movie club that @Jesslm started up and the kids are really into it. What’s interesting is that I see other books brought in the space in addition to the group reading. The kids are sitting and reading other books too at school, and they also know that each week they have the opportunity to get more books at the library. What’s been fun is that I think the shared reading experience through the book/movie club has normalized the hearing of stories regularly in the space and the kids are just enjoying that and creating more experiences to engage with stories on their own outside of this as well.

Bike Love

While it is sometimes hard to simply enter the school due to tripping over bikes, I ultimately love that the kids love biking here. They learn how to bike safely and share the road with cars. They also get to go to the Recyclery weekly if they want with @Charlotte to learn about bike care and maintenance.

Ping Pong

The kids who practice are pretty damn good. They love it. I’ve been impressed with their eye-hand coordination! We have @dthomasson to thank for sharing his love for table tennis with the kids! They model how it takes practice, and a lot of practice, to get good at a skill.

My Buds

Seeing the Creative Solutions from Change-Up Flourish

Some ideas from our last couple change-up meetings that are in development:

  • Having a rotating interest station at school: We set up a display with rocks in the hallway as a test to see if kids would notice or engage with a random interest station if they were bored. It was put up and we didn’t actually notice much engagement with it. At Change Up we thanked the kids for not losing any of the rocks and respecting the station, followed with the announcement that we’d take it down. After hearing this, one of the kids raised their hands and said, “I really liked having all the stuff about rocks out there because sometimes if I was bored I’d just go over there and look at them and read about the different kinds of rocks.” This led to the kids wanting to have a focus group talk about having an interest station stay at school. The outcome was that the kids wanted to have input on different topics this station could have information about, and that they wanted it to change regularly. Some of the interests they proposed were to have the table set up with math activities, nature activities, stuff about bugs and snakes, or stuff about clay and pottery. They group took a vote from the whole school and it was decided we’d start with bugs and snakes and then work through the other interests.
  • A small group worked this week on a wish to help everyone feel welcomed at school. A student felt really passionate about having a visual board in place where people could move their names to visually show how they are feeling to others. He explained that if someone was feeling lonely, they could move their name to show this and then others could know to check-in with that person. I loved this idea, especially coming from a student who is in touch with his feelings and feels it important for others to respect each other and their feelings. This student also advocated for feelings check-ins at Spawn Points because they felt it would help people open up and share with each other more. The kids now all are in the daily practice of doing this, and at our last Change-up meeting, excitedly supported continuing this practice daily.
  • The kids have come up with a new way to track where kids are, and since they came up with this, it’s more likely they will honor it. We had a velcro system we used last year, but it’s not reliable. We need a better way to see who went out biking with Charlotte or to the library with Melissa, etc. Sometimes you are looking for someone at school but they are actually doing something off-site and we want to easily be able to see this. So we are going to hang white boards by the exit door and the request from kids was that adults taking kids off-site need to put who is off-site, and where, on the board.

Math at School

Some kids have been asking to do math at school. Kristine brought in a bunch of Math-U-See stuff she used while homeschooling and met with me and Melissa to talk about offering math to the kids at school. I LOVE math because I love problem solving using logic and creativity. So it was exciting to meet with them – and the kids knew we were meeting and were curious and asking when math would start.

We decided to offer three different types of math classes – one with games geared towards younger kids, one with the goal of becoming more fluent with multiplication tables (because it really does help you calculate faster – this IS a useful math skill to gain), and one for Algebra because the older kids have specifically asked for that. We’d offer these all at the same time so that there was a larger critical mass of kids engaged and the school would be quieter.

The kids were then presented the choices and signed up. Again, this is just for the kids who have been asking for it and wanting it! I do not believe that math class is a “should” thing. It’s just one type of offering that can be fun, and the kids not wanting to do it are not (at least from me) given the message that they are missing out on anything, because I don’t believe that they are missing out (this article shares some great benefits of NOT receiving direct math instruction).

We said we’d host these two times a week through December, asking the kids to stick with it until then. After winter break, we’d re-evaluate and decide what to do next. I wrote Kristine & Melissa an email earlier today as I was getting pumped up to engage with math, here is a part of that:

For me, [math instruction] is not about teaching anything! I’ve taught math to very young children all the way through teaching math to prepare highschool students for college entrance exams (Alg 2, Trig, a little pre-cal).

I actually don’t remember anything from those upper level classes. I always loved math, and I retain very little memory for formulas. What I retain is a love for solving problems, so every time I teach upper level math, I relearn EVERYTHING with the students. So in essence, I’m rarely teaching anything, but learning with.

I take that with me when I work with younger kids, seeing everything as fun problems to solve. It’s fun to solve problems and to think logically and creatively!!

Basically, the point of learning math in school to me isn’t about learning math, it’s about learning how to think both logically & creatively. When kids view the math education and getting the right answer over the process of learning how to think creatively and logically, that’s when kids start to compete and think of others in terms of “smarter” or “better” than other people.

Kids CAN be successful in the world without knowing algebra. But what is a trait that is important for success, I believe, is to be able to solve problems and to do so creatively: innovative thinking and new ideas require creativity and out of the box thinking. Some the kids are doing this when they are playing minecraft, dramatic play, etc. And some of the kids will be doing this as they learn math with us!!

What will the kids bring in next?

The kids have already started talking about hiring Amy back in the spring because they like theater so much. I’m also excited to see who/what they decide to bring in next with their finance kids budget. They enjoyed having Mary B here last year for yoga, and some kids would like to see her come back. A bud for me here is to see what they decide to do next, and then next after that!

Be The Change Initiative

@Charlotte has had some really inspiring environmental talks with kids that are spreading in the space. She and a small group of kids have decided to try to make some small changes in their lives that they hope will make an environmental impact.

Charlotte also met a family who only takes out 3 bags of trash a year because they have limited how much waste they make as a family so efficiently. When she told the kids this at set-the-week meeting, and then told them that this family would love to share with us how they live this way. The kids were so excited! She asked for a show of hands of who would be interested in meeting the family and almost every hand shot up.

Sometimes, parents ask me questions about how the kids will learn and be exposed to new things if they aren’t forced to take classes. This above example is just one of many anecdotes of what opportunities the kids get to learn about when they are free from a pre-planned curriculum. What I want to ask parents back when I hear this question is, “Have you considered what your child is not able to learn because it’s already been determined what they should learn at the beginning of the year?”

 

My Thorns

Space

I want to have one campus. I also want the parents to have ease coming to school. I want to have more animals at school and outdoor play structures. It’s hard for me to justify putting money into developing our current outdoor area since I know ultimately that many parents would like to see the school move to a different location. I also love the space we are in and want to see a school stay there, and have considered the possibility of always having an ALC run there even if we find another location. I support the idea of many small schools happening – small schools that have relationships with other small schools so the kids can visit and mix with each other, while still have the deep relationships that come with smaller communities.

Time

Well, I just think the school days are too short. I kind of wish we were a boarding school where we didn’t have to stop at the end of the school day. I can see how this is different from at home “unschooling” where if you get into something at home, you can just stay with it until 8pm if you want. We stop at 3 for clean up and an end of day ritual, and sometimes that means we just have to stop the cool thing we are doing and then have to get re-engaged the next day or after we are at home. This part is tricky because there are times you just really want to stay doing the thing you were doing!

Mosaic Magic

Sometimes when we describe ALC days to parents, we will share about our morning and afternoon meetings sandwiching the bulk of our day: 10-3pm a time that we call “THE MAGIC.”

I haven’t been blogging lately, and this has been weighing on my mind! Now that I am spending most of my time directly engaging with kids, I see so much more magic and sometimes I feel like I could blog every day about the amazing things I am witness to, or a part of, each day. I’m thankful for how the school has grown beyond me: we are now a collaboratively run school, with a board & working groups comprised of staff and parents. I feel free from so many administrative tasks and decisions, and now I’m free to play with kids all day!  I am grateful for this each moment.

To this community, I want you to know that it’s because of each and every one of you together that has allowed me to release myself from prior burdens that used to weigh me down. Now I’m less anxious and more able to happily and serenely connect with myself and others, thus, I get to live and experience more of the *MAGIC* everyday. I’ll try to blog more about what we are up to at school and share the magic with all of you regularly. I’ll start right now!

The Magic Moments I’ve experienced the past week:

Math:

Oh boy! I’ve been seeing a lot of math lately, everywhere I go! I’ve been noticing the math in the most natural ways as well. Those who know me, know that I am against formal math instruction for children under the age of about 10 (if you want to know why, you may request that I write a separate blog post on that!). However, I’ve been seeing math a lot – it’s always been there, but I’m noticing it more (again, I have more time now to notice!). Where do I see it?

  • Geometry Dash. Wow, all the kids who play this game have a firm grasp of the fact that 100% means they are done the WHOLE game. First of all, this game is incredibly hard and takes many attempts to pass each level. Each session of attempts that you make and fail, you see that you have only completed “35%” of the course, or however much you have completed. I was playing with a student this week and she looked at the level I was playing and said, “Oh, I’ve only completed about half of that level, I’ve made it to 58%.” This is a child that struggled with math in school, and one that, since she’s left school, has been gaining more and more of a solid sense of numeracy through natural interactions with her environment. If she had been given a percentage question on a test, there is a big possibility that she would have frozen up and not been able to remember that percentages just tell you a part of a whole. But she knows this now, and through an experience that made complete sense to her. After that moment, I began listening to all the kids as they play and realized that they were all receiving the basic foundation of percentage that will help them learn more about percentage, fractions, and decimals at a faster rate if they want to dive into that when they are older. My hope here? That they won’t have the “freeze up” effect or the “I’m just not a math person” attitude.
  • Finance Club: Giving the kids a budget of money to spend has been incredible, and I’m sorry I didn’t think to do this sooner! Budgeting money is a very practical and important skill that I don’t see taught in a real and relevant way to students in school. Giving fake budgets about “John mowed lawns for 5 weeks and made $10/week. He has to buy…blah, blah blah” on a worksheet does not motivate kids to actually figure out how to spend, save, and account for money. The kids are excited to have real money to spend on items that they can then use at school, and they are doing so very responsibly. Check out our finance meeting club minutes here!
  • Shopping! The boys have been into playing “store” with me, and I love it! We dish out coins and their favorite thing to “shop” for is wands. Ayan has been really into Harry Potter, so he loves to browse the wands and ask me for their powers. Their favorite was when I sold one wand to James that could turn adults into children, and another to Ayan that turned children into adults. They enjoyed “turning” me into a baby and then back up into being old! They get their coins to shop with by doing “jobs” in the store. I might have them wash imaginary windows, pick up and put away real items in the room, or restock the store shelves in order to earn shopping money. It’s really fun how we mix in the imaginative play with a practical buying/selling and monetary activity.
  • Career Planning: I’ve been working on this project with Alona, and it’s quite interesting. We’ve picked careers, looked up their average salaries in NC, used online tax calculators to see our Gross vs. Net pay, and then budgeted out where we will live, the cars we will drive, and all our monthly living expenses. We’ve made Google Spreadsheets and have shared them with each other. Each week we get to make a change to the other person’s sheet to mimic the unexpectedness of life so we can see how this changes our finances monthly in this role play (RP) activity. Each real life week simulates a month in the RP. So, last week, I made Alona’s dog get diarrhea on her carpets in her house and she had to spend $250 on hiring a professional carpet cleaner – blowing her typical $40 budget a week to buy pet food & supplies. I am having so much fun doing this! Perhaps if I had practiced this type of planning as a kid, I would’ve been able to do much better with the school finances last year…

Saying goodbye to Daniela:

Last Thursday was Daniela’s last day with us, and it was a tear filled afternoon as we gave her a parting gift and said goodbye. Daniela came to visit us from Bogata, Columbia to experience our school and practice her English. We did a whole group spawn point in the afternoon and shared about our experiences with her. We all felt her calming and loving energy here and know that this is the beginning of a long friendship, not a forever goodbye. Isabella and I will definitely be in touch with Daniela through Skype and one day I hope to go visit her and her family one day.

 

Inspiring Videos That Were Shared With Me This Week:

I shared this one on Facebook with the following message: “I can understand this feeling. While I am so proud of my work and love what has been created, there are many days where I am overwhelmed by what I can be doing better.

And yes, there were times – especially in year one of opening the school – that I thought maybe I just wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or capable enough to do it. Those thoughts happen. But then, like this video says, I just worked more. I worked more because the reason I wanted to create the school was so valid, so awesome, so “killer.” I know I’m in the beginning years of making something incredible.

Just like the space I’ve worked on creating room for children, I need space to fail. There’s no better way to develop a healthy relationship with failure than to go out and try to something you’ve never done before. Even if it scares you.”

After posting, I had some really encouraging messages posted to me, which went straight to my heart! Most were from parents, but then one was from my old co-worker from the Friends School of Charlotte. It’s amazing how Facebook can re-connect you with others based on a certain message. I was so touched and felt all warm and fuzzy from this sharing and the feedback!

One day last week I had three different people share this video with me on Facebook! I really appreciate the lyrics. It’s a message that I hope many hear – and I’m grateful that the kids leaving our school will not leave with this same problem of not having time and space to learn practice skills they need in their life.

Our students also practice how to listen to each other, how to create their own schedules, how to take an idea and turn it into a reality. They learn how to solve their own problems and how to make requests of others when needed.

After spending several years teaching in public schools, I watched how much the kids forgot from what was “taught” to them year after year. It’s wasted time in my opinion. They could be living their life and having a childhood instead – filled with learning practical skills relevant to leading a happy and successful life.

I shared this video and the Hackschooling Makes Me Happy video in my presentation for the Camp Luck Conference!

Camp Luck’s 5th Annual Conference:

Melissa Mulligan, Evan’s mom, is the coordinator for the annual Camp Luck Conference for parents of children with Congenital Heart Defects. She asked me to present at the conference because she strongly felt that parents of children with CHD needed to have their minds opened to how their child could live life outside of school. Melissa and I discussed how we especially felt that kids who spend lots of time in hospitals should then spend their time living their life and savoring each day rather than doing homework or studying for tests that clearly neither of us feel is a good use of time for humans.

Melissa helped me prepare the description of my talk, “A Childhood They Deserve: Parents want their children to live happy lives filled with purpose and independence, but aren’t most schools preparing children to be compliant and obedient, always being told to chase the next carrot? What type of schools do children really need to lead fulfilling and empowered lives in the 21st century world? In this presentation, you will learn about self-directed learning communities that work together and share best practices, and strive to give children a childhood they deserve.

In preparation for speaking at this conference, I spent a lot of time re-visiting the first time I met Rachel and her story for how she came to enter into the “unschool” paradigm of education. I spoke to her on the phone, and then I went and re-read every single blog post she wrote on the Keep Nate Great blog she made during his cancer treatments. During this reflective period of conference prep, I learned more about Rachel’s story:

  1. After reading all the blogs, I chose an excerpt from her last blog post to share during my presentation about her wanting Nate to live a life where he could just be and enjoy each present moment (as opposed to worrying about what was ahead in the future). This blog post written in January of 2013, the same month I opened The Mosaic School, LLC. Several months later, I met Rachel and she joined our community with Nate and Gabe. Last week, Evan, Melissa’s son told me, “I believed everything is connected.” Yeah. I believe that too.
  2. Rachel not only wanted this community because she wants him to love life and every moment in it, she also noticed that as a child who needed heart surgeries and needed cancer treatment, Nate was being treated by others as “that poor kid.” People would dote on him and give him gifts, trying to be nice, but Rachel wanted Nate to know that he is a person outside of heart surgery and cancer. She wanted to see people connected with him by asking him, “Hey, what do you like to do? What interests you?” rather than just being sorry for him all the time. She wanted him to just be a kid, and she feels so grateful that at Mosaic, Nate can be Nate, not the poor kid who needs sympathy.

I shared Rachel’s story as the opener for my presentation, and shared that our school has primarily grown through word of mouth – with each family coming to the realization that they wanted a community like this for their children in their own way. This was Rachel’s path, which was a very emotional one. I see Nate and Gabe here at school every day, and through this re-connection with her story, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that they are here. I see Gabe write in his trello almost every day “had an AWESOME DAY :D” and I smile and love that they have a happy and loving childhood experience.

I then shared some of the outcomes of the research I have done on the history of public schools and why they started, and then moved on to sharing from the work of Peter Gray, Alfie Kohn, John Gatto, Daniel Pink, & Carol Dweck. Finally I shared how we as a community have take our ideas and use Agile tools & practices to turn them into a reality, describing each of our T&Ps with pictures and anecdotes from school. I really like the slides I put together to share this and hope to write another blog soon that shares about this more in detail!

 


 

 

So, last week was FILLED with MAGIC and I can’t wait to start another week at school tomorrow!

 

Highlights from the week – October 27-31

This week was full of ease and flow. I feel like we are harvesting right now the fruits of having a group of kids that has been working on how to be in community with one another for over a year now.

Some quick highlights from the week:

  • I visited a teen program in Asheville – they are beginning to use Agile tools and practices! I wrote a blog post earlier this week with more details on that trip.
Morning circle at Endor
Morning circle at Endor
  •  Tomis taught the kids a super fun strategy game called Tictactics. It’s tic-tac-toe to the extreme. What was really interesting is the he presented the game the morning after I read an article called, “How Guessing Games Help Kids Solve Math Problems.” While the article focus on numerical guessing games, I see the link to strategy guessing games also providing a strong mathematical foundations. Both girls and boys got into the game during our Math Club hour and I loved seeing that!
Tic-Tac-Tics
Tic-Tac-Tics
Level 3 of the Egg Drop Challenge
Level 3 of the Egg Drop Challenge
  • Our Language Club visited Pura Vida in NoDa to practice our Spanish skills and see the Day of the Dead Altar. Dia de los Muertos is celebrated on Nov 1 of each year in Latin America. I’ve been taking kids to Pura Vida to see the Altar for 5 years years now! The owner and all the employees are very friendly and kind to the kids. The let the kids pretend to buy items in the store using the Spanish they knew. @Sassygirl26 could speak fluently of course and also taught us what she knew about Latin American traditions! She saw egg shells filled with confetti and told us that they are used to crack over the heads of others we want to wish good luck on. We bought 12 eggs for $1.25 and used them to wish each other luck the next day! It was a mess, but lots of fun 🙂
  • Our Fall Festival! Oh man, what a fun day. We had face painting, bobbing for apples, fashion shows/clothing displays, a costume contest, and an International Display where we tasted food from various parts of the world. @Sassygirl26 and @Tessa were really excited to plan this day and met many times over the weeks leading up for it to prepare a runway, make decorations, and plan activities and a schedule.
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Prepping for the Fall Fashion Show
After the costume contest
After the costume contest

We certainly ended October with a bang, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

Sept 3, 2014 – Math Club

Yesterday I proposed a “Math Club” at ALC Mosaic. Last year, we had a bunch of kids working on Algebra with me and I thought there would be interest.

…but only Charlotte came!

So what did we do? We decided to hold coherence for math at ALC Mosaic anyway. And it turned out pretty incredible.

First @Charlotte and I went through my old John Van de Walle book from college and practiced some activities from chapter 12, “Whole-Number Place-Value Development.” In college, I had a very progressive math instructor that used this text with our class – and started my love for math and math education. As many of you might know, at the last school I taught in, my area of focus was math and how to bring math to children in a way that is more developmentally appropriate. Most kids actually can think mathematically but have their logic and problem solving skills stripped away from them as they go to school and learn to do math “how my teacher showed me.”

In my experience, kids love engaging with numeracy. They love money. They are little entrepreneurs. They compare each other’s ages. They count objects. They play games that involve numeracy all the time. They want to tell time. Why do we feel the need to sit them down and “do” math in a way that teaches them that you put numbers in a magical arrangement, “carry” the one and like magic, an answer appears?

In my opinion, children needs lots of time to play with place value. They should never be taught algorithms until they have had time to invent their own ways of solving problems.

Ideally, kids could work together solving a problem that’s fun and challenging, and then share with one another how they solved their problem and compare strategies. When I’ve done this with kids, I’ve been blown away by how their invented strategies make so much logical sense and mirror the logic of traditional algorithms. It’s after kids have invented their own strategies and understand them that they can be shown other algorithms, and when they see them, it makes sense!

Back to our Math Club – Charlotte and I decided to investigate together some of the activities in Van de Walle’s book to educate ourselves on how we can introduce numeracy activities to the kids. We did a couple of number games that led us to some fun ideas of how we can naturally include math at school without a formal math club! Dean joined us at this time as well and here is a Math Jam brainstorm list we made:

  • In our small groups, ask the kids to figure out how many eyes are in the room (for younger kids, counting by 2′s)
  • We then thought of other silly challenges we could pose to our small groups – like how many teeth there were in the room! Charlotte and I have 57 teeth together, by the way.
  • Challenge our kids to measure items in their own hands and feet. Charlotte, Dean, and I then measured our hallway in our feet and strides. We found out some cool things during this activity – for example, Charlotte has smaller feet than I do (duh!), but she took fewer strides than I did. We realized that she has a super long stride, (probably why she kicked my butt hiking Grandfather Mountain this weekend, she walks really fast!) This then led us to a mini lesson on the history of measurement!
  • @Dean said he’d love to start a “Discovery Book” where kids could record cool discoveries like these and challenge others to new challenges and discovery making!

So, Math Club wasn’t a flop after all!