Do you have a creative child in your life? How about a child who doesn’t enjoy math? Have you struggled to get your child to engage with math?
Today’s post is about encouraging math with creative kids or how to engage kids creatively with math!
Living Math and Creative Kids:
We hear a lot about living math these days, but what does the term really mean? I see a lot of blogs with labels on living math, but I’m not sure it all fits the criteria. Living math isn’t just about hands on experiences or adventures with math. Living math is essentially applied math. It’s the math you encounter when you are working on a goal- whether it’s cooking, creating, planning, or building.
You can orchestrate living math with projects you devise and suggest, but the best kind of living math comes when your student is working on something creative and comes across the need for math. THIS is when the magic happens.
R12 made four crocheted Gandalfs from a pattern found at Geek Central Station.
What Math Is Needed for the Gandalf Crochet Pattern?
- Following the crochet pattern– what a lot of counting and spatial reasoning!
- Drafting the patterns for Gandalf’s clothing-The pattern provided was for the body itself. Rather than purchasing the clothing patterns, she made her own. There’s quite a lot of math in measuring and adjust patterns to fit a particular size.
- The Brim of the Hat– she needed to use some serious geometry to find the size of the cone to fit the brim of the hat or how to get the circle at the bottom of the cone to be the right size for the brim. She also needed to work out how wide to make the brim itself.
How Did She Solve the Problem? By searching for equations on the internet based on what she knew already about cones and triangles. She actually knew a bit of trigonometry from a discussion with her dad over a slide rule. They had a long discussion about right triangles which started her down a path to conquer her problem.
She did some measuring and given her four Gandalfs were not precisely the same size, she had to adjust them and make four separate ones. She made the jacket from a flat construction she recently learned and was able to try them on and adjust the fit.
The Key to Engaging Creative Kids with Math:
- Slow down your schedule– if you and your children are always on the go from one activity to the next, no matter how amazing the activities are, you are taking away from creative time. Think about whether your schedule aligns with the goals you have for your homeschool and family life. Drop things out if you need to.
- Allow them time for creating– Even if you are home, it’s easy to schedule time with what needs doing whether it’s school work or house work and chores. My observation is that you need to allow kids the time for pursuing their passions. Make plenty of time for it. How they use it will change as they get older and it varies based on the personalities of your children.
- Give them permission to create on their own without an agenda set by you or anyone else. This is at the heart of Project Based Homeschooling, but even if you don’t consider yourself relaxed enough for this, this is important stuff. Directing projects and managing everything our kids do is quite different from mentoring them to manage their own stuff. Saving a portion of the day for this type of learning is key to becoming an independent learner.
- Be sure to have the necessary supplies on hand for creating– this may seem so simple, but if your children cannot get to the supplies or there are none available then their creations are limited.
How Does Allowing Time for Creativity Encourage Math Skills?
Chances are your student will come across the need for math while working on his creative project. What counts as math?
- Measuring– this can come in all forms, but not only requires the act of measuring it’s usually followed up with some arithmetic to figure out if it’s the right size for his intentions.
- Pattern Following– no matter what you are building or sewing, following a pattern requires mathematical thinking from measuring to spatial reasoning. Being able to do it well takes practice, but it’s a great skill to have.
- Organizing– if your student is working on a project from idea to product, there’s likely some organizing going on. Organizational thinking and putting steps in order is a mathematical skill.
- Pattern Drafting– it takes a lot of mathematical thinking to draft your own pattern for something whether it’s for sewing or wood working or anything in between. R12 has been making a lot of patterns and she’s been working with size and proportion and how different elements fit together to make the whole.
R12 doesn’t enjoy using existing clothing patterns as much as she enjoys drafting them. She’s been given some basic tools to get this job done and it’s been a fantastic learning experience to go after it on her own.
A Few Resources for Pattern Drafting:
- How to Make Sewing Patterns– oldie but goodie on pattern drafting
- How to Use, Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns– she uses this one more
- Blogs & Tutorials- she has learned a LOT by reading what others are doing. Now that she has her own Galaxy Player (think Android version of an iPod touch for you iPeople), she can look up her favorite creative blogs while she works which she LOVES.
The take home point here is that R12 spends a lot of time immersed in her creations and she enjoys tackling the math when it is for the purpose of finishing her creation. She will ask for help if she needs it, but mostly she comes to discuss where she is and how its going. She is far less frustrated throughout this process than when she has to do a problem for a problem’s sake.
Allowing Time for Creativity & Invention Boosts Morale during the Prescribed Math Time:
- Prior Knowledge– if they encounter a concept on their own and they tackle it, then they’ve seen it before and they can add it to their math toolbox. Accessing prior knowledge is king when it comes to working on new concepts.
- Confidence Booster– meeting up with and working out the math for one of their projects reinforces the idea that we are all math smart. We just need to nurture that smart and what better way to do that than with something we are good at?
- Spoonful of Sugar– helps the medicine go down! When you allow plenty of time for pursuing passions and doing math their way, it helps ease the tension when they have to sit and just do math.
So, do you leave time in your schedule for your creative child to pursue his passion? Is there time in your day and are there materials available for your children to dive into a project? The investment of time related to projects helps to shore up those mathematical thinking skills outside of prescribed math time. I’ve seen focused effort on a math problem that far exceeds anything I would lay out for her and this is when you’ll see pure tenacity in getting the job done!
If “living math” is not all you’d hoped it would be in your homeschool, then I challenge you to discern whether it’s really the applied living math you are seeking or if it’s just a veneer of the real thing. Authenticity is key when it comes to living math and finding it is really a matter of getting immersed in student driven learning.
I’d love to hear how you encourage your outside the box math learner. Feel free to leave a comment!