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  • How To Make Learning Math + Science + Reading = FUN
How To Make Learning Math + Science + Reading = FUN
Written by
Meryl Jaffe
February 2011
Written by
Meryl Jaffe
February 2011
A few months age, The Wall Street Journal's  Friday Journal (November 5, 2010) splashed the headline: "The Turf War for Tots:  In TV's battle for the hearts and minds of preschoolers, it's Mandarin and math vs. stories and sparkle"  Executives at Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. and Walt Disney were jockeying for market position following "starkly different" points of view:
Nick scheduled programs emphasizing "learning" such as "Dora" and spin-off "Go Diego, Go" (teaching kids Spanish) and "Ni Hao, Kai-Lan" (with 6-year-old cartoon Kai-lan Chow teaching kids Mandarin Chinese").  Disney argued that "learning programing" emphasizes too much work and not enough play, focusing on story-telling  instead.

This is all fine and good, and as parents it is nice to have a wider options for our kids.  My question is: Why isn't LEARNING = FUN (period)?
  • Why does programing have to be either "learning" oriented or "story-telling"? Isn't story-telling a form of learning?  Isn't learning a form of story-telling (especially when learning about cultures)?
  • Why is everything in education presented as extremes (for example:whole language or phonics)?
In my December 6, 2010 blog ("Our Education Dilemma") I mentioned an article by Paul Lockhart, a mathematics teacher at Saint Ann's School in Brooklyn, NY who laments about our current math curriculum which teaches students to memorize and apply formulas but which, in his opinion, should engage students by having them explore natural 'built-in' mathematical problems all around them instead.  Jon Scieszk's Math Curse does just this.  It was such a popular book he went on to write Science Versedetailing the poetry of science.

If Scieszka and Lockhart can integrate math + science + humor = fun ... why can't educators?  Why is everything either or? Our schools are losing so many students.  How many times have we, as parents, heard from our kids that school or learning is 'boring'?  I certainly have. 

So, here are some suggestions to make learning fun:
  • Learning must be meaningful.  Teachers and parents must constantly introduce topics in a way that makes whatever the topic is, meaningful right then and there. Here are just a few suggestions:
    • In math we have "manipulatives" - ususally blocks, discs, or shapes to "play" geometry or addition, subtraction, multiplication. division - but we also have to show them WHY these tools and operations are so important:  What's in it for them?  

      • Design and make different types of kites.  Fly them - which works best -why (this combines math and science).
      • Have your kids virtually 're-tile' a bathroom given a specific shape or sets of shaped tiles.  Re-tiling must involve geometry and math's various operations to be successful.  
      • Maybe, you have a football fan - why not teach base ten, base two, base whatever as "first downs"?  
      • Maybe you want to travel?  Have your kids select destinations and  convert local temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit  (working with fractions and conversion).
      • Convert time zones and compute travel time (using various modes of transportation).  You can be really creative and invent your own forms of travel and travel time.
      • They can do the same with various foreign currencies. Let them plan their trips, let the design their bathrooms - make it meaningful
    • In Science - it's the same idea - make it meaningful to them.  You may want to relate whatever you are studying to their lives, their bodies, their immediate universe.
    • Reading -again...fun!  Independent reading should be easy reading and it should be about meaningful topics and things they love.  
      • Let them select their own independent reading material and you can expand their horizons by selecting very different books (slightly more challenging) to read aloud.  
      • For reluctant readers - start with comic books or graphic novels.  They are coming into their own now and offer incredible art, relevant topics, serious vocabulary - and they really challenge cognitive skills such as inference (more on this in later blogs).
  •  Go on field trips:
    • Go on hikes (local and distant) - look for birds (with a book and binoculars), look at flora and fauna (again with book - or a camera/cell phone) - hunt for unusual things you can research later. Or, go on hikes talk together, have fun.
    • Go to local (and distant) museums.  There are so many different types of museums now.  There are local historical sites, art, media, cultural, music, spiritual museums - explore - make their learning more personal.
This world is such an wonderful, colorful, vibrant, fascinating place - let's take advantage of it!

Have fun!  Let me know what and how you are helping your child explore his or her world!

Let's be friends

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