March 11, 2011

Math and energy

March 11, 2011 - Categories: learning, life, teaching

We’ve been hosting math study groups over at our place every Friday afternoon, and occasionally on other days too. Today we reviewed the multiplication table, and adding and multiplying fractions (even mixed numbers!). We also snuck in a preview of dividing fractions (mindboggling!) and some letters from the Greek alphabet (with brief excursions into pi, trigonometry, and others).

They had been practising! The kids rattled off the multiples of six, seven, and eight with growing confidence. They only needed a little reminder to handle addition and multiplication of fractions.

After they told me how their teacher had sprung a brainteaser on them (24, 68, 101, 214, …), I shared this one: 31, 28, 31, 30, 31, 30, 31… They solved it after a hint, and looked very excited about the idea of possibly stumping their teachers. And then there’s this other one they left the house with: 3, 3, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5, 5, 4, 3, 6, …

“I didn’t know how a math study group could be fun,” one of the parents said, “but now I see how.” She had joined us a little early to find out what it was like. Her son was practically begging us for a chance to do the multiplication tables, so we did another round of them, with the grown-ups joining in too. =)

What’s it like hosting a study group at our place? We aren’t like the tutors I remember from home: the quiet one who helped my sister with math and other subjects, or the ones who came to our house to help us with Chinese. W- and I have tons of fun teaching. We come up with examples and exercises, throw in all sorts of zany ideas, sneak in advanced material as well as confidence-building reviews.

I really like the small group format. I can bring even more energy to that than I remember from my days of teaching computer science in university, and I can modify the lessons and exercises faster. It’s like the thrill of an especially interactive presentation, except that I get to actually see what people do with the ideas in the end. I can see the aha! moments happen, see progress week after week.

I’m so glad we’re doing this. I wonder how we can share more of what we’re doing, maybe help more kids and parents gain confidence too…

2011-03-11 Fri 20:56