Blue Egg Advisory Group, L.L.C. has added exciting engineering manuals to the INTOOBA Construction Kit giving students in K-6 opportunities to solve problems collaboratively using concepts in engineering and math:
Spiraling through the many years of a K-12 education are various levels of math, language, writing, social studies, the sciences, and the traditional topics we expect in such an environment. The education community is pushing towards STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math – with the inclusion of Art) with the realization that the space in which students will eventually be employed has changed dramatically. Not only has the environment changed with advances in technology, globalization, access to information, social and political change, and environmental challenges, but the pace of change is increasing. We are now trying to integrate the disciplines with a view to increased creativity through cross-discipline pollination. Is this enough? Are we fulfilling our essential and critical responsibility in providing opportunities to enable our children to operate successfully in this environment?
Essential features in education looking forward should include:
• learning to correctly and accurately find, describe, and solve complex challenges
• attaining the skills required to work successfully in groups
• the ability to welcome and work through adjustments, modifications, and failures
• demonstrating to students the practical applications of their classroom learning
To these ends, we at Blue Egg Advisory Group LLC have invented and developed a unique manipulative to foster these concepts in young learners (K-6) as they prepare for secondary school and beyond. Our INTOOBA Construction Kit manipulative offers many opportunities for hands-on experimentation through leveled curriculum manuals in math and engineering.
Students should bring as many of their senses to bear on a topic in order to enhance their learning. All information entering the brain for processing, understanding, manipulation and output comes through the use of one, or more, of the five senses. As an interesting and engaging add-on to the curriculum, I used smell to teach Math in my classroom. Virtually any topic can be covered. I usually used an exercise of multiplying two digits by two digits, by assigning a smell to a number. The smells are cooking extracts from the supermarket.
In this way, children are able to place a math problem in their brains through their noses as opposed to the more traditional auditory or visual approaches. Students are highly engaged and interested in this activity.
BCILD is embarking on collaborative projects to investigate both best practices and innovative ideas in the teaching of mathematics (K-12).
Firstly, we have developed a relationship with Italian high school mathematics teacher, and Global Teacher Prize finalist, Lorella Carimali. Lorella’s biography is listed below, as well as a translation of a recent presentation Lorella gave in Italy.
Secondly, we are collaborating on a math podcast project with the Dawson School in Lafayette, CO. Dawson middle school students are interviewing and producing podcasts with adults in the community on the topic of how they currently use math in their daily lives. This activity helps students understand and appreciate the importance of mathematics in the ‘real world’, and gives them skills in interviewing and producing podcasts. We will provide further details on this project as it unfolds.
BCILD is interested in investigating best practices in the teaching of mathematics and sharing these ideas with teachers internationally. We present Lorella Carimali here as an introduction to an ongoing learning dialogue with her about her teaching philosophy and teaching practice.
Lorella Carimali – Mathematics Presentation – 2017
To develop an all-inclusive classroom setting which encourages the understanding of mathematics in a holistic way, we need to take account of both the process of being involved with a mathematical problem from start to finish and develop a comprehensive understanding of the discipline. Becoming a competent mathematician involves not merely the memorization of facts, but entails a deeper development and enjoyment of confidently utilizing intuitive skills and creativity in the process of problem solving. ‘Creative enthusiasm’ must become part of the learning process in mathematics, and it can be used across other learning disciplines as well.
A community of learners engages high-achieving students in the process of teaching their colleagues. In this way, the high-achievers refine their own thought processes through improved articulation while the students who find the topic more challenging feel included in the learning process.
Student mistakes in approach or calculation are not seen as negatives in the inclusive classroom but are instead seen as opportunities to learn. Mistakes open doors rather than close them. Use mistakes to motivate students. No student should ever feel inferior because they make mistakes. Students should see the usefulness of mistakes in their process of academic growth.
The methodology used in the teaching of mathematics should be neither mechanical nor automatic. Teachers need to use creative materials and approach students in a way that reinforces the idea that student intelligence and ability is not fixed, but rather something malleable and changeable with practice, concentration, and support. Teachers need to put tools in the hands of students, and support those tools by providing the student with an awareness of their own cognitive processes and abilities. Success in this endeavor is achieved when everyone in the classroom is equally involved, leaving nobody behind.
Points to consider:
(1) Teach the process before you present the problem. Use imagination and creativity in your practice. Each individual has an area of personal growth. Potential does not always lead to actual output.
(2) The teacher should act as a change agent for the student, uncovering collaboratively the student’s personal cognitive processes. Autonomous thinking depends on understanding your own capacity and process.
(3) The teacher and student should always have the same mindset and be available for growth opportunities.
(4) Teachers need to work with students in understanding the entire process of mathematics from problem understanding, to working through the process of solving the problem, to being able to articulate their thinking and problem solving processes to others. High-achievers need to have the ability to explain how they process their understanding.
Integral to the learning success of every student is having their progress carefully and consistently monitored each and every day, thereby fostering continuous engagement between the student and the teacher.
In teacher planning and preparation, plan your approach around who you have in the classroom as learners. Leverage the skills and abilities of each student to both their own, and the group’s, benefit.
An interesting approach with students would be to create a theatrical play around mathematics learning because it is important to develop skills such as intuition, imagination, projecting, theorizing, deducing, controlling and evaluation to be able, in a second moment, to ordinate, quantify and measure sustainability of facts and phenomenon belonging to reality.
I experimented with this model in different contexts, applying it following the scientific method and I could verify that it works and that it is replicable.
Students could express their discomfort with mathematics in a theatrical fashion, and they could safely explore ways to explain concepts and understandings to their peers. Play creation is similar to mathematics in that concentration, considering each detail, curiosity, routine, and repetition are all involved. In plays, as in mathematics, you recognize your own limitations, and can view them as opportunities for growth.
Studying math means essentially to learn to think mathematically and to become conscious of one’s own reasoning method, mastering procedures and not simply applying them, and therefore being able to transfer to other contexts the mathematical skills assimilated. Another approach would be to create a game in which students create a company where they have to use mathematics in building a business and making appropriate decisions regarding marketing, management, and the financing of a business.
A student wrote: “she made me re-evaluate math by teaching me to see it not as a set of formulas but as a way to see life and be able to simplify it by reasoning”.
Confidence is competence. Confidence is built through each student knowing their own mental processing capacity. What did you do? How did you do it? Why did you do it? The sharing of these insights between students is vital to a student’s overall competency. The students develop into a team working together where mistakes are not ostracized, but instead act as learning opportunities. Sharing is a process that involves everyone, with all participants feeling included and having the ability to refine and define their own thinking. In this way, we can make a comparison between students and the individual players in an orchestra: they sound good playing on their own, but sound much better as a symphony.
Logical thinking, the process of moving sequentially from one thought to another in order to reach a conclusion or solve a problem, is an essential skill. Teaching this complicated process to young students can be challenging. However, using the INTOOBA Construction Kit, students can construct physical models and see an explanation of how logical thinking works.
Exercise: teacher assigns values to the rods and connectors. Students are asked to logically establish what is missing in the figure and what they need to complete the construction. They are asked to give values to what they see, what is missing, and what a completed piece would be worth. Students are asked to complete the model, and share their thinking process with the group.
Students use logic to establish what is missing, and then use their hands to solve the challenge.
Forward thinking K-12 institutions are already teaching students about collaboration, design thinking, coding, STEM, and experiential learning. There are, however, other skills that we should consider equipping students with for their multiple career, multi-cultural, and diverse futures. These skills include the ability to negotiate, and the capacity to resolve conflict. Contained within this learning is a capacity for empathetic understanding, logical reasoning, problem solving, articulate presentation of position, and the capacity to change your mind based on evidence or argument presented to you.
Being able to negotiate and resolve conflict necessitates the fairly advanced skills of being able to listen for, understand, and explain the point of view of someone else. If you develop this skill, you are more likely to be able to empathize with that viewpoint as well. In being able to listen to and understand the thinking of others, students should realize the importance of clearly and logically presenting their own point of view to achieve maximum impact with their peer group. A person must be able to listen for understanding, as well as convincingly present ideas so that they can be clearly understood and added to the discussion and deliberative process. If a child can develop these skills, it follows that they can become more competent negotiators and resolvers of conflict.
Almost everything we need or want in life is attained from some form of presentation to, and/or negotiation with, another person. Shouldn’t we equip our children early with these powerful tools?
At the Boulder Center for Interactive Learning at Dawson (BCILD), we are working with a professional in the field of negotiation and conflict resolution to bring these skills in any easily implementable form to lower elementary students. Facilitating the development of these skills in young learners gives them both an opportunity to learn valuable life skills, and an opportunity to practice and implement them in their daily interactions.
Read this very innovative approach of Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) to promoting maker spaces in K-12:
Here is my latest thinking in the K-12 space:
As we aim to teach students how to solve complex problems through critical thinking and design thinking, we enable them to think as individuals but work collaboratively. This profound skill set truly enhances capacity to reason logically within the framework of an ability to comprehensively understand the challenge.
Our capacity as educators to see thinking is often challenging. One solution is to afford students an opportunity to work with physical manipulatives:
In integrating collaborative work in our approach to K-12 education, we are teaching students the benefit of listening, learning from others, coming to consensus on ideas, and other group dynamics. These are all essential skills in group problem solving exercises in school, and in adult project based work. What we should not lose sight of is both valuing the individual as a contributor, and building personal communication skills thereby promoting effective group dialogue and collaboration. It takes a very skilled teacher to nurture the individual as a person of abilities, aptitudes, and evolving capacity while at the same time teaching effective group dynamics. Productive group work is predicated upon individual skills in communication, and group skills in collaboration. We want children to know that their opinions and observations are highly valued, we want them to have the skills to communicate them effectively, and we develop collaborative skills to make project based learning effective.
In early development of these skills, it may well be the case that using physical manipulatives in the classroom facilitates the development of communication skills across curriculum topics. As personal skills in, for example, vocabulary, persuasion, reasoning, and advanced thinking develop, children could use manipulatives to assist them in communicating their ideas with peers. This is evidenced in the example of Kim Haines, 4th grade teacher at Dawson School in Lafayette, CO who used the INTOOBA Construction Kit in developing communication skills in listening, giving directions, providing clarification, and in either being a giver or receiver of information in her math class:
Essentially, teachers can observe individual thinking and development of these essential skills through the use of manipulatives while also noting the child’s functioning within a collaborative setting. Children here are supported in the learning of specific collaborative language through the use of their hands.