Maybe it’s a reaction to all the hustle and bustle, but rather than spending the bulk of our time this week documenting who did what and when, we’ve mostly been meditating on a larger, more abstract question: Just how does all this happen?
A March Mathness example: On Monday, we encountered a free range (aka unofficial) big-brained superhero roaming the halls of Yesler Community Center and stopped to ask him to solve a few math problems for us. In the course of our brief discussion, we offhandedly mentioned that we were part of The Big-Brained Superheroes Club, which met on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 6pm. After a few more math questions and responses and thanking him for his time, he responded, “OK. I’ll see you on Wednesday!”
Huh. We were not expecting this. If we were planning to seek out new recruits to the club, “ask random kids to solve a bunch of complex math problems” probably wouldn’t have been our go-to course of action. And yet, recruit a new member we did as that particular young BBS proved when he exclaimed, “I told you I’d be here!”, when we met him for the second time on Wednesday afternoon. And he was actually just one of three new recruits (two boys, one girl) resulting from this week’s Hallway Math event so far.
Our first-ever March Mathness* is getting off to a bit of a late start…blog-wise, that is. As far as big-brained superheroes are concerned, we started celebrating promptly on March 1st with an entirely impromptu big-brained superhero gathering in the halls of Yesler Community Center for Hallway Math. Also, we already have an exemplary (also entirely impromptu) piece of Art and Math on which we can look for inspiration. So, regardless of all other challenges, we’re taking these as promising signs. Our first-ever March Mathness is going to be mathtacular!
But first, you may be wondering…um…what? What is March Mathness? So glad you asked. We’re dedicating the entire month of March (which includes Pi Day, of course) to finding ways to incorporate math into all of our Big-Brained Superheroes Club meeting activities. True, we already do Hallway Math, Mathketball (the ever-evolving rules of which we’ll be documenting sometime soon), and JUMP Math. Besides which, we’ll soon be booting up AdaptedMind (kindly donated to us by the AdaptedMind folks) to provide even more math-portunities in the computer lab. But we know that there’s more math where all that came from.
For starters, we’ll definitely be engaging in all of our standard math-tivities (taking them up to eleven, even!). Plus, we’ll be adding more, more, more mathtivities to our repertoire. Beyond which, we’ll be looking for ways to uncover the hidden mathematical aspects of our seemingly non-math-oriented activities. And we’ll eventually end the month by documenting an entire week straight (Monday thru Friday) of Hallway Math. Not to mention, we’ve been chatting with other caring members of the Yesler community about the possibility of bringing math into other areas of our big-brained superheroes’ lives. So, without further ado…let’s let the mathness begin!
* While the Google suggests that we’re not the first to come up with the “March Mathness” idea, we’ll do what we can to be the punniest.
Tapping into the hidden strengths…This amazing work of Art and Math was completely driven by one of our young big-brained superheroes. From inspiration to execution, it was all him. And he did it just because he wanted to. We like this!
The hands seen here adding up 0s and 1s* belong to one of our big-brained superhero 4th-graders. We love to see how this particular BBS recovers from her mistakes. Rather than getting flustered and frustrated, she remains calm, cool, and Persistent to the end. All the way up to a hundred.
* = This binary counter was designed and developed by one of our big-brained superhero volunteers who received high praise yesterday when one of our young BBSes, after a scrupulous examination of the apparatus, earnestly pronounced said volunteer to be “really good at electronics”.
What is math? Why does our current number system only go up to 9? Is zero really our hero? Last night, in service of The Big-Brained Superhackers Club, we learned to count in binary. Little did we know that, through such a tiny number system, we’d be re-exploring these kinds of ginormous questions!
Oh, Schoolhouse Rock, your profundity never ceases to amaze.
“Can I have a math problem?” is, as we mentioned on Twitter recently, probably our favorite big-brained superhero FAQ. How this tradition got started we don’t recall, but we’ve pretty much given up on making it through the halls of Yesler Community Center without being stopped by this question at least once (mostly at least thrice). And having zero interest in looking a gift horse in the math, roll with it we do. Even if it means scheduling an extra 20 minutes for a trip to the bathroom.
Sense of Adventure: Anytime big-brained superheroes are eager to solve a problem, they’re exercising their Sense of Adventure. And it all begins with a Sense of Adventure.
Kindness, Empathy, Teamwork: Somehow some way we’ve learned to use math as a means of communication. A point of connection. Contra approaches like this one, our hallway math is a group effort. We suspect this cooperative approach may be good for all our big-brained superheroes but most especially for our girls (who, BTW, are our most frequent inquisitors by far).
Critical Thinking, Creativity, Adaptability, and Persistence: Hallway math, sans pencil or paper, creates an interesting challenge for us. How difficult can we make it for our big brains and still keep it achievable? How far can we test their boundaries and even their sense of themselves? How can we, ever so briefly and subtly, blow their minds? While it may sound ridiculous, these really are the questions we ask ourselves. All in this quintessentially transitory space.
We love these indisputable reminders that thinking, learning, and connecting can and should be happening everywhere, maybe even especially on the way to the bathroom.
So, in early October—in spite of extreme busyness—a couple of us exercised our Sense of Adventure and attended a talk by math wizard Steven Strogatz at Seattle’s Town Hall. Toward the end of the talk, our Empowerment superpower was revved up enough for us to be the first at the microphone to ask Mr. Strogatz for his opinion on the state of math education in the US today and whether he had any good resource suggestions for our young Big-Brained Superheroes. After a lengthy, vigorous, and thorough condemnation of current common practices, he mentioned that, sadly, he did not have any alternative resource suggestions. However, at the conclusion of the scheduled event, an attendee seated in front of us turned around and gave a lengthy, vigorous, and thorough commendation of a program we had never before heard of: JUMP Math.
At this point, contacting the folks at JUMP Math was a no-brainer. Our Sense of Adventure and Empowerment superpowers had already been developed enough to enable us to put finger to keyboard and shoot off a simple email: Can you help us?*. Apparently, yes, yes they could. The JUMP Math staff connected us with a Seattle-based donor who would generously fund JUMP Math’s introduction into The Big-Brained Superheroes Club. Because math is a core subject for us and one with which many of our BBSes seem to struggle, this development is indescribably momentous. In short, we’re so excited that we’re feeling punny enough to JUMP for joy! Thank you, Steven Strogatz, Lara who sat in front of us, folks at JUMP Math, Seattle-based donor, and of course, Sense of Adventure, Empowerment, and as always, Kindness!
Obviously, our next challenge is determining which Pointer Sisters song is more appropriate for this occasion: I’m So Excited or JUMP for My Love?…decisions decisions…
OK, puns over. Here’s an excellent JUMP Math video as some small recompense:
* For some of us big-brained superheroes—big and small—asking for help is one of the more daunting challenges in life. We see this every day in our young BBSes, and we see it in ourselves. So, be prepared for it to become a bit of a recurring theme around these parts.
Just a little of what we have to learn about math:
…studies show that “number talk” at home is a key predictor of young children’s achievement in math once they get to school. Now a new study provides evidence that gender is part of the equation: Parents speak to their daughters about numbers far less than their sons.