Almost every parent says –That’s not how I learned math. And the other day on Facebook, I read this post: “I’m joining the bandwagon of new math gripers. I used to love helping my kids with math homework. It was actually a joy in my day. I have a minor in math. But now I find myself completely flummoxed trying to help my kid with her math homework. Argh.”
Another parent said to me, “I looked at how they were having them do the homework and I thought –this is a waste of time.”
So I decided to go straight to the source and ask a New Math instructor, Ms. Joy Jones of Alta Vista’s 1st grade. AltaVista News: Joy, parents aren’t feeling cozy with “new math” strategies. Any comment on that. Joy Jones: These new ways of solving math have been criticized and attacked but mostly because we tend to shy away from learning a new way of doing something. The way we were taught is ingrained in our brains, so to try another way to organize a math problem seems daunting, overwhelming and useless. But the question we don’t usually ask is, “Does it benefit my child’s learning style and brain?”
AltaVista News: What would you say to parents who balk at these new math methods?
Joy Jones: After learning, teaching and observing how these new systems work, I have to say it is important to give them a chance. The purpose of these is not to make learning more difficult or confusing, but it is to do the opposite. These new systems are meant to tap into the brain where other procedures just cannot. They won’t work for every student either. Some students like the more traditional way of working through a problem, where other students who may struggle with organization and place value may not grasp the more traditional concepts. Once they are taught a new way of working through an equation that supports their organizational woes, they are able to solve an equation independently while understanding how they arrived at the answer.
Alta Vista News: So, all you are saying is, Give New Math a chance. Didn’t John Lennon have a song like that or something?
Joy Jones: No. That was “peace,” but the sentiment is the same.
On September 25th, the 2nd grade Superstars, introduced their classmates to DIY Camps at diy.org, an online day camp program designed to allow students to pursue their interests either individually or with a group under the supervision of online counselors and whoever is watching over the shoulders of the computer user at home.The 2nd grade class pursued the Book Nook Badge and created designated reading areas inside their houses, which you can view here.
Students can access diy.org’s camps and learn a variety of skills at many levels at diy.org — anything from t-shirt design to baking a homemade apple pie; from origami to landscape painting, from computer coding to strength exercises, from week-long theater camp to week-long comic book camp, all with instructions from seasoned counselors.
Ed Walters issued the first STEAM challenge of the school year at September 14th’s morning meeting with a contest to have the Alta Vista teachers compete against each other in a Theremin Playing Contest. The teachers were set to compete against each other by playing either Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Mary Had a Little Lamb in a greatly anticipated concert showdown.
So how does STEAM –the acronym for science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics — relate to a Theremin, an electronic musical instrument whose tone is generated by high-frequency oscillators? While seemingly wacky — think B-movie flying saucer sound effect — “The experiment of the Theremin is an interaction between the human and technology: people are sticking their hands right into technology and having technology talk back to us,” says Walters.
On September 21st, Ed Walters continued the Theremin lesson by demonstrating how sound waves travel by conducting an experiment with wires and a couple of buckets. The takeaway from that morning meeting was that sound travels at 760 mph, regardless of high or low pitch, softer or louder, higher or lower sounds.
While the sound wave demonstration was gripping and educational, the student body anxiously awaited the teacher’s Theremin concert which happened on Friday, October 16th when the music teacher Julie Bruins played a version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and admitted that the Theremin was the hardest instrument she had ever learned to play.
Ms. Bruin also revealed that the Theremin’s origin came “from the days of Russian spies who were trying to make a land-based sonar device to detect when people were sneaking about, but, instead, Leon Theremin created the world’s first electronic instrument.”