Embracing Her Rules

I want to preface this post with a declaration: My daughter Maria is the love of my life and being her mother is my greatest blessing.  That being said, to describe her as a “free-thinker” would be a sugar-coated understatement of my little non-conformist. (I mean would it kill her to play one game of Sorry by the rules?)

Enter Math-on-a-Stick.  The very purpose of the exhibit is to help parents help their children develop their own ways to make sense of ambiguity.  Relax, Mom!  Even a business teacher can do it!

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My husband, Scott, creating a tile design.

 

But wouldn’t you guess, my sweet darling figured out a way to diverge.  Here she is making “caves.”

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There’s nothing wrong with this, by the way.  She just threw me for a loop when it came to asking probing questions. Onto Malke’s table.  Maria decided to make a bird.

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This is where the conversation gets good.

Me: How do you know it’s a bird?

Maria: (tossing paper) Because it flies. Let’s make another bird.

[She folds the paper once, makes her cuts, and opens the paper]

Maria: It’s not a bird.  There’s no wings.

Me: What do you think went wrong?

Maria: Maybe I didn’t make the cuts big enough.

[She grabs another paper and tries again with bigger cuts]

Maria: It’s still not a bird.

Me: Could we maybe try folding the paper twice instead of once?

[Bird-making, take 3 with two folds, instead of one]

Success.  We ate delicious food, we rode rides, we bought trinkets and treasures. But this conversation with my precious, independent child was the best part of the fair today.

This angel will be 5 years old tomorrow. Happy birthday, sweet girl.  I learn from you every day, and I am the luckiest mommy on the planet.

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An Open Letter and a Note of Gratitude

“I’ve been married for forty-two years which means I’ve been to forty-two state fairs.”  I’m not sure why this little tidbit from the Park-and-Ride attendant didn’t instantly put me in great spirits.

And then I walked up over the hill, took one look at Math-on-a-Stick, and the indifference melted.  The humble smile of satisfaction from Christopher Danielson was enough to warm the cockles of my heart for months.  But the kids and the konversations around shape, number, space, and patterns were nothing short of inspiring.  “This is exactly how I envisioned this,” Christopher said.  And his vision becoming state-fair reality is going to change the way parents and kids talk about math.  I love hearing kids explain their reasoning.  It’s what makes my job as an educator joyous.


 

Dear Adults: (all of us)

The children in your life are creative, driven, passionate, and intelligent.

GET OUT OF THEIR WAY.

Ask them how they see the pattern. Let them experiment with the shapes.  Let them lead the conversation.

Listen to what they notice. Encourage them to say more.

Then ask them how they know.

The “right” answer is so much less important than a child leading you on their own mathematical journey.


 

Thank you, Christopher.  Today you not only added a great new structure to the landscape of the Minnesota State Fair. But tonight, in hundreds of households, the conversation around mathematics is changing. And after nine more days, thousands more will get a chance to embrace this shift.  When my husband and I have been married forty-two years, we’ll go to the fair and stop by and listen to the kids talk at Math-on-a-Stick.

 

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