Monday, April 1, 2013

Embracing the Unknown: Adventurous Professional Learning

One of the very best things about keeping a blog, and a Facebook page, and a Twitter account is how many thoughtful, smart, interesting and cool classroom teachers and home educators I have had the chance to 'meet'.  And then there's all the listening in I get to do, as well.  I am completely inspired by the exchange of ideas -- about specific projects, yes, but also about the process of teaching and learning, for both the students and their teachers.

These kinds of exchanges actually make me feel patient, for once, about not knowing everything I think I should know.  I have a new respect and understanding of learning as a continuum and as an adventure with no guarantees, some dead ends, and unknown, occasionally inspiring outcomes.  This makes me a better, more flexible teacher and more willing and able to try out new ideas, often to great results.

So that is why I was thrilled to hear from Simon Gregg who recently jumped in with both feet, literally, to try something brand new in his 5th grade math classroom over in France.

He had a goal: "We've just been 'doing' symmetry on paper, and I'd like to see how they get on with doing it physically, plus a four beat rhythm."  He read up on Math in Your Feet (which provides background and an overview of the program).  And he tried it out!

His work with the students was an awesome approximation of the program in the best possible sense!  What I mean is, it takes a while to cross the bridge: it took me a while to grow my own 'math eyes' to identify all the math we are doing in the program, and it will take him some time to grow his 'dance eyes'.  (It might be the same for you, one way or the other, if you decide to try it yourself.  I'm sure it will easier for everyone when I am finally able to put together a curriculum guide and DVD.)  But, all in all, Simon and his students made a fine showing and there was a lot of learning for everyone!

I was especially impressed that his students devised their own notation to record their dance steps/patterns.

I was also impressed that, despite the newness of it all, the overall experience mirrored so much of the really important things that happen when I am working with kids.  He writes:
The idea and inspiration for this activity came from Malke Rosenfield's brilliant "Math in Your Feet" program, though it should be said that ours is a very rough approximation of what is a much more developed and professional program. That said, there were a number of things that were really impressive about what the class did:
  • Their total concentration;
  • Their amazing and precise cooperation in pairs;
  • Their energy;
  • Their ability to devise notation to record positions and moves;
  • Their use of mathematical vocabulary to describe their patterns.
A success on so many levels -- well done!

If you're interested in finding out more about the teaching and learning within the Math in Your Feet program, here's a video I created as part of the Teaching Artist Tool Shop collective:


  1. This is a great video. I think the way you have connected math and dance is outstanding. My father has told me many times the more senses you can involve in learning the better the understand and results. Connecting math and dance this way involves many.

  2. Thanks! I think just about every sense is engaged, except for taste ;-) Sight (visual cues from tape box), hearing (counting in, sound of the feet on the floor), touch (feet on the floor), and proprioceptive/vestibular.


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


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