Friday, March 24, 2017

mathemagical thinking & NPM challenge

www.fromvictoryroad.com 
The world is such a different place these days...

No, I'm not going rail against the state of our democracy or the demise of our Earth (again), but I am going to take on a polarization of positions that is just not serving us any longer.

It's that divisive notion that in this world there are word people and there are math people and that they are fundamentally different.



I shouldn't have been quite so slow to get here, since both my offspring are walking talking reminders that you can have a natural knack for both spelling and calculus, for both algebra and narrative.  But I was raised (through absolutely no ill intent on the part of my parents) to understand that I was a word person, a poet, and that I would not be good at math.  When they took me out of kindergarten because I could already read and put me in first grade, I cried on Mrs. Walker's lap because I knew I was "smart," but there was something about subtraction that, try as I might, I just couldn't get.

Now, developmentally speaking, that was true.  I was not ready at 6 to travel easily backwards on the number line, and I WAS a person who needed concrete models that were not offered to me.  The whole 100 chart did not lie open before me in my mind's eye, the way it does for some of those kids whom I would have called, as recently as last year, math brains. I couldn't get it--YET.

So I struggled through, taking no fewer than 4 years to memorize the multiplication table because it was only that for me--memorization of unanchored phrases, not representations of numerical relationships. I learned the logarithms of borrowing and carrying without understanding what they achieved as a computational efficiency.  (When I finally encountered Base Ten blocks at the age of 22 in a Math for Teachers course, it was a moment of Great Enlightenment!) No one ever said to me, "Heidi, math is a language, and you're good at languages.  Off you go."

And then last year, aged 52 and teaching 2nd grade for the first time, I realized that I had never really understood the function of the equal sign.  Seriously.  I had been teaching my kindergarteners about number "sentences" which are special "because you can read them left to right AND right to left," because I myself had never come to my own solid understanding of what "balancing an equation" really means, an equality on either side of a fulcrum.  Now I'm finally getting that the grammar of math may be different than the grammar of English (or German or French or Spanish, all of which I get), but it's still a system, with--as my math major daughter will attest--a lot less need of fuzzy uncertain interpretation than English!

Imagine learning all this anew in the middle of middle age!  Now I'll just let you watch this video that in ONE WEEK transformed all of my students' attitudes about who is and who isn't, who can and who can't be, strong mathematicians.  It came to me through colleagues who are studying this "duh-obvious" yet only recently explored idea of growth mindset, a concept which I knew but had not really applied to myself until I began to think about me and math.  It's long but it's worth it.



Now you may be asking, "What has all this to do with POETRY?"  Last summer I started planning a collection of math poems for young readers, but its concept was very different even eight months ago than it is now.  Now I'm positively excited to explore some of my own math development through poetry, and I'd like to ask for your help with a National Poetry Month challenge for myself.

I'm going to try to draft a math poem each day in April, and while some of the poems will be specifically about number and operations, I also want to write about experiences of math learning.  Will you help me gear up by leaving your math thoughts, questions, anecdotes and confusions in the comments?  I'd love to have a trough full of math fodder to dig into as I embark on my project.

I leave you with a poem I wrote when my mathematician daughter turned 8, and with thanks for sharing your mathemagical moments if you choose to!
                                                                   (c) Heidi Mordhorst 2007

According to my calculations, Catherine is our host today over at Reading to the Core.  Off you go, in search of the only solution to the problem of dichotomy...you know it's POETRY.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Ireland O Ireland

I tried to write with ire about Ireland, but my associations are all too jolly, somehow.  Those leprechauns are powerful.

Linguistic Jig

There's Donegal, Dublin and Derry,
Kildare and Kilkenny and Kerry;
To the east Meath and Louth,
with Cork to the south;
In the middle is old Tipperary.

And we mustn't forget County Limerick--
it gives us that verse with a glimmerick
of fiddle and whistle,
of bodhran and thistle--
the limerick is more than a gimmerick!

To begin you belabel the folk:
"There once was a man in a cloak."
You then rhyme his tale,
Perhaps sprinkled with ale,
And end with a right bawdy joke.


Enjoy the below, and then jig on over to Life on the Deckle Edge for today's round-up with Robyn!


Friday, March 10, 2017

mooning around

The moon, while ancient, never gets old. 
We never tire, we humans,
of searching the moon:
finding it wherever it is in the sky,
mining its faraway & so close surface for messages,
timing its passages,
assigning it metaphors and meanings
for every night of every day.

In second grade, we study the moon to observe changes over time.  Now, in addition to all the poems ("The New Moon" by Eve Merriam, "Del Ombligo de la Luna" by Francisco X. Alarcon, and my own "The Moon Moves") we already use to enrich our moon study, I can bring in Laura Purdie Salas's If You Were the Moon and, from Elaine Magliaro's collection Things to Do, "Things to do if you are the MOON."

Laura's book came to me a little too late to use as our kick-off this year, but next year, that's what I'll do.  It's that perfect combination: lyrical language connecting personal experience of the moon to each reader and nuggets of concise scientific information. Jaime Kim's friendly illustrations do a lot to clarify the concepts.  A page that many of my students will find really helpful is

Catch and throw.  Catch and throw.
                At night, the moon seems to glow in the sky.  But the moon is made of rock.  Like the
                Earth, it does not create any light.  Instead, the moon "catches" light from the sun
                and "throws" it toward Earth.





Elaine's poem covers some of the same ground (how could it not?), and yet makes the moon new again.  I hope she and illustrator Catia Chien will forgive the amateur photography, but besides wanting to show off the whole gorgeous page, this busy teacher doesn't have time to fight Blogger over the formatting of this perfect poem!

from Things to Do by Elaine Magliaro (Chronicle Books 2016)
Nope, it never gets old, the Moon.  Moon on over to Michelle and Today's Little Ditty for the "round"-up today!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

All-Billy Birthday Extravaganza!



Welcome, all!  This week for Poetry Friday--thanks to the popular suggestion of Linda Mitchell at Mary Lee Hahn's blog last week, all who care to are posting a favorite Billy Collins poem (or Billy-inspired original.  March happens to be his birthday month--the great man turns 76 on March 22.  Leave your links here starting at 8pm, Early Birds!

I thought to challenge myself by finding a BC number that might actually appropriate for kids, unlike the one being famously recited (you know I had to post it) by this wee acolyte at the altar of words:





But I haven't found a satisfactory one, so I'm going with this one, dear to the heart of mothers and former sleep-away campers) everywhere.


The Lanyard || Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I , in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even. 

from The Trouble with Poetry (2005)


I'm hoping to have time to put together a "Golden Spine" poem--as you can certainly guess, that's a poem made of the stacked titles of another poet's poems, in tribute to their genius.

In the meantime, the InLinkz froggy will help you hop from Billypad to Billypad, and I pledge to eventually make it to each and every post this weekend.  Thanks for stopping by!