Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Learner Dancer Teacher "Math Explorer"

It's been a year since I read Contance Kamii's Young Children Continue to Reinvent Arithmetic, Implications of Piaget's Theory.  I'd probably understand it better now, what with first and second grade math under my belt.  Well, my daughter's math anyhow.

I was just reminded of Kamii's work (and how much I want to re-read it) when I opened another gem today: Young Mathematicians at Work: Construction of Multiplication and Division by Catherine Twomey Fosnot and Maarten Dolk. I got wind of this book via a math education reading list constructed (ha!) by three educators-of-math-educators I know of via Twitter: David Wees, Christopher Danielson and John Golden.

Here's a really nice section from the Preface of Fosnot and Dolk's already very exciting book:
"Like all human beings, mathematicians find ways to make sense of their reality.  They set up relationships, they quantify them, and they prove them to others.  For teachers to engage children in this process, they must understand and appreciate the nature of mathematics themselves.  They must be willing to investigate and inquire -- and to derive enjoyment from doing so.  The book you hold is primarily about that -- how teachers and children come to see their own lived world mathematically, their journey as they pursue the hard work of constructing big ideas, strategies and mathematical models in the collaborative community of the classroom."
I love this and I can't wait to dig into the book.  I think the reason I'm so excited about it is that I've always been interested in how people come to learn and know things but I didn't have an outlet for this passion until fairly late. When I was very young I wanted to be a teacher.  As I grew older I thought, "I can't possibly be a teacher -- there is nothing I know and love well enough to teach."  And so I spent many years trying to do other things.

Then I found percussive dance.  I was 26 and a half years old.  A year or two in I realized, not only was I pretty good at dancing but I was also able to break down steps in multiple ways for various types of learners in a way that was useful to them.  And now, 'x' years later?  Who am I?  I'm someone who has built a bridge to the math for students who might not otherwise ever glimpse the other side, but I'm not sure I'm a math teacher yet.  I think the best description of who I am and what I'm doing is the one Maria Droujkova gave me when she welcomed me to the Moebius Noodles team last week as "the creator of the Math In Your Feet program and a math explorer...."

Now that is a title I can wholeheartedly adopt.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to call myself a math teacher or if that is really my purpose in the midst of all this wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous math that I'm finding. On the other hand, Fosnot and Dolk say that (math) teachers "must be willing to investigate and inquire -- and to derive enjoyment from doing so."  I think that is a pretty apt description of what I am doing as I bring math to young people, through percussive dance or other making-math ventures.

Over the last year or so I've found plenty of opportunities to listen in on the conversations happening between a wonderful group of math educators via blogs and Twitter.  They're often talking about my favorite topics: thinking, learning, teaching and...math (and all possible meanings of that word). This kind of conversation, about the facilitation of actual learning, feeds my intellectual heart and brain.  It also ignites my enthusiasm for the elementary math that I never really learned the first time around.  It's the best possible remediation: using my adult brain and my lifetime of experiences to explore math on my own terms and interests....and then figure out how to best facilitate the learning of others. 

That's me: learner, dancer, teacher and...math explorer. Up, up and away! ;-)

1 comment:

  1. Beyond all those nice things people say about you, you love what you are doing; sharing with your daughter and that with others. Sharing what you love is a service to all.


Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


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