Assortment

The backlog of things to post/comment on is looming large, so here are a bunch of posts in one with not much comment.  Otherwise, stuff gets away from me…

From McSweeney’s, a piece about how kids are reading more than before.  Yes, MORE!

I’ve been meaning to read Blake Boles’ College Without High School, but I haven’t yet, so I’m not yet qualified to write about the book.  I will say that I find the Table of Contents useful in its own right, so I feel qualified to recommend that much.  Once I’ve read it, I’ll be back to say more.

From Salon.com, an interview with author Diana Senechal about kids’ need for solitude.  I did read this one, and while it bothers me (as many such conversations do) for its attempt to figure out what’s going to work for “kids” as though it’s one thing, I’m glad to hear the call for making more space for young people to actually think. Senechal advocates for being generally more thoughtful about how we teach what we teach.

And one anecdote.  Yesterday, I was doing some fraction work with an 11 year-old.  He loves math, and hasn’t learned it the old-fashioned way.  He figured out about adding and subtracting intuitively, watching the world go by, and he prefers doing his computation in his head in the course of various problem solving efforts to anything that involves shuffling numbers around on paper.  But he also likes to know how other people are doing their math, so from time to time we show him – what algorithms they’re using, what kind of terminology, etc.  The thing is, every time we do it, I’m reminded of how silly much of it is, and how much better it could be.  Yesterday we were multiplying fractions and I heard him say under his breath as he was figuring his way through something “it’s going to be a big-on-top answer.”  He didn’t say it so I could hear it.  He knows that’s not what it’s called.

I couldn’t help wondering, again, how much more fun and pleasant things might be if kids could make up their own names for things as they were getting acquainted with numbers.  Not to mention that it’d be much easier for them to communicate with each other about them.  Also not to mention that, in the case of the big-on-top fractions, there’d be opportunity for less value judgement; who’s really to say that a big numerator is any less proper than a big denominator?

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