A Year in the Life: Ambient Math Wins the Race to the Top!
For one year, 365 days, this blog will address the Common Core Standards from the perspective of creating an alternate, ambient learning environment for math. Ambient is defined as “existing or present on all sides, an all-encompassing atmosphere.” And ambient music is defined as: “Quiet and relaxing with melodies that repeat many times.”
Why ambient? A math teaching style that’s whole and all encompassing, with themes that repeat many times through the years, is most likely to be effective and successful. Today’s standards will be listed in blue, followed by their ambient counterparts.
Measurement and Data 2.MD
Relate addition and subtraction to length.
5. Use addition and subtraction within 100 to solve word problems involving lengths that are given in the same units; e.g., by using drawings (such as drawings of rulers) and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.
6. Represent whole numbers as lengths from 0 on a number line diagram with equally spaced points corresponding to the numbers 0, 1, 2 . . . , and represent whole-number sums and differences within 100 on a number line diagram.
“Drawings of rulers” stumped me. I must admit that I am at a loss to create foundational lessons and activities that would fulfill these standards. My online search for lesson plans aligned to standard 5 yielded materials that represent many teacher/student/parent hours of planning, teaching, and practicing, both at school and at home. Similar to yesterday’s worksheet however, most are based on out-of-context content. Some are hands-on, using snap-together plastic cubes to represent length, but most are worksheet formatted or digital.
The whole has been lost in search of the parts. And children feel this loss most deeply since they need wholeness more than we do. For better or worse, we for the most part have acclimated to the separation and disjointedness that represents modern life. But they, being new to the planet and the way we do things here, have not. And we, their mentors, parents, and teachers, can help by dipping into the pool of wholeness for their sake (and it’s healing for us as well).
Word problems ideally should have a purpose and be rooted in experience and necessity. See below for my favorite Charlie Brown cartoon about the irrelevance of most math word problems. Meaning means more to children; it’s like air or nourishment, and should be the basis of everything they’re taught. Math By Hand introduces the positive and negative concepts of the number line along with beginning algebra concepts in Grade 4. The rules for using the number line and the 4 processes in algebra are so complex that waiting to introduce them is wise.
The Math By Hand Grade 2 lessons and materials cover learning all times tables up to 12 and regrouping in addition and subtraction. Simple but sufficient. Mastering these skills is quite enough for any 8 year old. I will conclude on a heartening note with a letter from the administration at the Barrowford Primary School in Lancashire, praising a young student who had just completed standardized testing and “demonstrated huge amounts of commitment and tried your very best during this tricky week.”
Knowledge ensues in an environment dedicated to imaginative, creative knowing, where student and teacher alike surrender to the ensuing of knowledge as a worthy goal. Tune in tomorrow for more Common Core measurement standards and their ambient counterparts.