Creative Ways to Teach Math
March 18, 2011 2 Comments
You might ask, “Is there a creative way to teach math?” I remember the days of learning multiplication tables by rote. Things are changing…for the better. A version of this was originally posted on Quora. With the great positive feedback, I thought it would be good to share on Daily Creativity. The Quora question was, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” My answer…
I believe creativity in the classroom has more to do with individual teachers more than anything else. As a creativity practitioner from time to time I work with teachers and classrooms to incorporate creativity into the curriculum. One of my experiences involved working with my son’s kindergarten class to teach skip counting (counting by 3’s, 5’s, etc.).
Before I dove into developing the lesson I asked my son to show me how he learned to skip count in class. He said he needed some blocks, so we went to the toy room and he started sifting through the Legos to collect blue blocks. Well, we didn’t have enough blocks to skip count by 2’s up to the number 30.
When I asked my son to substitute a different colored block, he gave me a blank stare. He had been conditioned to counting with blue blocks and was unable to switch colors or use different materials. I found this experience enlightening and figured if my son’s young mind was already set on a particular method for skip counting, then introducing the skill of “flexibility” might help him and his classmates as well.
I decided to use the Torrance Incubation Model to teach skip counting while weaving in the creativity skill of flexibility. To warm up, I worked on mental flexibility (which turned out to be physical flexibility too). I put two pieces of tape about 3 feet apart and asked the students to cross from one piece of tape to the other any which way they’d like – the caveat…they had to make their crossing unique and couldn’t copy anyone else. Of the 18 students, about 12 wanted to participate. Some skipped, some hopped, some crossed like a hamster while one student chose to do a somersault and another did a cartwheel.
Through debriefing on this warm up the students said at first they could only think of one way to cross – walking…and they were surprised to learn of the other 12 ways. This opened the door to showing how there are multiple methods to skip count by two’s. We used paper clips, a number chart and an addition worksheet. Each student “experimented” with the different methods to see if each would provide the same solution (i.e. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10…)
In reflecting on TIM with my son’s teacher, she was amazed at how challenging it was for her class to think outside of the box. The best part of this exercise was when my son’s teacher said she was going to integrate flexibility into her teaching method. She had an “AHA” moment in realizing some of the students felt uncomfortable thinking on their own and that they had to look to her to lead the way.
For more on creative ways to teach math, feel free to read Part 2 of this post.