Friday, January 14, 2011

The Great Number Rumble

As most of you know, I am now happily textbook FREE! YAY! But just because I don't use any textbooks, that doesn't mean that I don't teach my kids. Recently, I started using a very non-traditional way of teaching math to my kids. It's a "living math" approach, and you can find out all about it at Julie's Living Math website. I strongly encourage you to check it out!

In each lesson I do with my kids, we use a unit study to learn a subject in a fun, relevant way. But for the entire time we have been homeschooling, math has always been a separate study, usually coming from a textbook or worksheets. I wanted to bring math into our unit study way of learning, instead of just teaching math facts that didn't seem relevant to the kids - or to me for that matter! So when I saw the math history unit studies that Julie has put together, and I saw what a great price she was offering each lesson for, I was VERY thrilled and decided to give it a try! For $20, I bought cycle 1, unit 1, and that gives me eight lessons. But don't be fooled. Those lessons are so packed with great information, this will take us several months to complete. For these eight lessons, I could easily fill up an entire year of learning. Couple that with all the great math readers - LIVING BOOKS - and you've got a GREAT study of mathematics, great mathematicians in history, and the things those mathematicians discovered.

I'm not going to give you all the details, because you should go buy your own copy of the lessons! (They are well worth the $20!) BUT, I did want to tell you about the very first book we have been reading with lesson one. This will be the first time I have ever done a book review on my blog! EXCITEMENT!

Oh my goodness, I wish they had this book when I was in school! This book starts out with 2 boys, one who is a regular kid and the other is a math genius. Since he doesn't see himself as a genius he prefers to call himself a mathnik. Even though the regular kid doesn't quite understand the mathnik's love of math, they are still good friends and hang out together. One day, the director of education announced that math would be removed from the school curriculum, effective immediately. Everyone begins cheering - except for the mathnik. He is furious, and wants to know what in the world the director of education was thinking. The director agrees to a debate with the mathnik, and the great number rumble begins, with the whole school watching.

The director opens up the debate by trying to explain why math isn't relevant and really doesn't have anything to do with life. It's just something hard that confuses everyone, and kids should be able to focus their attentions toward other more important things in their schooling. Then it is the mathnik's turn.

Go get yourself a copy of this amazing book to find out just how many places you can see math in our everyday lives. (I had to buy it, because it's not at my local library. Check your library before you buy, though.) I will tell you, I was SHOCKED at how much math is in the world. In fact, I would go so far as to say the world is made up MOSTLY of math. I had no idea that math is in EVERYTHING, from art to sports, from magic tricks to computers, and is even found in the weather and in the way animals and insects use their instincts.

We found out yesterday that math is in a lot of magic tricks. My kids LOVE magic tricks, so they really got into this lesson! Here are the pictures of the fun we had.

In their first magic trick, we tied strings around both of their wrists, looping them together so they couldn't get loose. Their job was to figure out how to get free without untying or cutting the strings. Britches looked at the strings on their wrists for just a minute and said, "I'VE GOT IT!! I know how to do it!" (Glad she did, because it confused me a little!)

Next, we took a simple 3X5 note card and wanted to see if we could fit through it. After making a few calculated cuts, we proved that you CAN indeed fit through a 3X5 note card! What a trick!

Now everyone knows that a dime is smaller than a quarter. But we wanted to see if we could make a quarter fit through a dime size hole in a piece of paper. For this one, we talked about different shapes, and found out that, even though the diameter of the dime is smaller than that of a quarter, when the paper is pulled up slightly, it makes an ellipse (an oval) that the quarter will slide right through.

We also learned all about Mobius bands, what they are used for, and how it makes one continuous loop on BOTH sides! Also, Britches cut it right down the middle to form a really curly band. Pretty cool!

This book does not actually TEACH you any math, as in, you won't be sitting down doing multiplication facts on a sheet of paper afterward. However, this book has sparked an interest in both of my older kids that just wasn't there before. Oh sure, they did math - because I MADE them. But now, they can't get enough of this book, because they are just itching to see where else math can be found. They are begging me to keep reading. We have about 2 more chapters left in it, and I'm sure we will finish those today, because they just don't want to stop. And each day, after our reading, I have heard them during their free time referring to the things we learned from this book earlier.

On thing that Little Man has learned is that, if he wants to be a computer animator like he thinks he does, he's going to have to learn a LOT more math! And Britches, who is really into art, has realized how different things in math can make her works even better than they already are.

I only wish they had read this book to me when I was in school as a kid. I had no idea how FUN and RELEVANT math is, and I never really learned it like I should. I am hoping that, by approaching our math time in more of a focused unit study approach, my kids will grow to have a LOVE of this subject. Go check out the book. You will be glad you did.

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