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Learning Notes

October 20, 2008

James and I played Mythmatical Battles and had a Treasure Hunt. 

Then we worked on multi-digit multiplication a bit. I’ve written a lot about James’s learning style and his approach to math. He doesn’t tolerate ANY kind of problem where he needs to write out steps. I am torn between feeling he needs to do it (it might strengthen those left–right brain connections or something) and figuring “to Hell with it. That’s why God invented calculators.” 🙂

Instead of doing “book math” we played a variation of a dice game I learned from Christine, one of my all-time favorite bloggers:

It’s really simple and can be used with almost anything. We were using 5 dice – 2 10-sided (0-9) and 3 6-sided dice. Each person rolls all 6 dice then plugs the numbers into their problem however they like (in our case a 3 digit times 2 digit problem). They then multiply. The object is to get the largest number they can because whoever has the largest product wins the point for that round. Play as many rounds as you like and then see who has accumulated the most points.

In turn, each player rolled 3 dice and plugged them into a 3-digit number times 2-digit number multiplication problem. James quickly picked up on the fact that putting bigger numbers in the 100s place yields the best results, and so forth. That shows, of course, that he has a good grasp of place value. The next step was to estimate the answer, using rounding. Then the player would solve it with the calculator. For example, if the problem is 432 x 22, he mentally estimates by rounding (430 x 20 = 8600 or 400 x 20 = 8000), then solves it with the calculator (9504) and see how close it is. The player wins 9504 points. The first player to 10,000 points wins.

It was a simple game, but James seemed to enjoy it. It side-stepped the actual computation of the answer. But I think these approaches — estimating the answer and using a calculator — are closer to what one would do in real life. Does it really matter whether James can multiply 432 x 22 on paper?

Are there books and videos out there that teach “math tricks” enabling you to solve problems like this completely in your head? If so, that might be another fun approach. Does anyone have any thoughts?

James worked on the story he’s writing. We worked in Spelling Power. He is also listening to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He seems to be enjoying the HP books just as much the second time around.

He also learned a bit about electricity and worked with his new electronics kit. He seemed to have a lot of fun with that! His dad talked to him about conductors, insulators, circuits and such.

Sarah and I worked in Math-U-See Pre-Algebra and Spelling Power .  We read and discussed another chapter of Are You Liberal, Conservative or Confused? She worked on her research project on censorship and banned books. She spent some time on this site; which made her angry. This was her take on the movement to remove objectionable books from school libraries:

“Parents should know what their children can or must read at school and make decisions for them.” WTF? Can’t teenagers make their own decisions? I was about 8 and I knew Belle Prater’s Boy was not good for me. Furthermore, if parents want to shelter their kids, they should do it themselves, not be a pain in the ass to teachers.

There you have it. 😀 Belle Prater’s Boy was a book Sarah was required to read in a gifted/talented reading class in about 4th grade. It included a child who saw his father shoot himself in the head. 😦 Sarah quickly realized that the book would be very upsetting to her, and refused to read it; she clashed with her teacher, who reminded her that this assignment was not optional.

The flaw in Sarah’s logic, in my opinion, is that not all kids are as comfortable advocating for themselves as she is. I can see both sides of this debate.

Sarah is a good thinker and she’s passionate about what she believes in. She’s also a bit of a black and white thinker. A few of my goals are to

  • Guide her to think fairly about both sides of the issue. I prompted her to look at the “bad books” cited on the PABB site and decide
    • which ones she agrees are pretty bent
    • which ones are good books but not intended for children
    • which are good kids’ books about which the website twisted the facts — she did a pretty good job of highlighting how they did this — for example, they quoted certain passages out of context
  • To have her give specific evidence to back up her opinions. (Why is their assessment of these books wrong?) Sometimes this involves stepping back and viewing — with a cool head — things you feel strongly about.
  • She did a good job of beginning to do these things.

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