Thursday, November 8, 2012

Yummy Math and the Election

Common Core.
Yummy Math.
Electoral College.
Conservative Christian School.

What do these all have in common?

I teach at a private Christian school in a battleground state.  While I don't know for sure, I would venture a guess that 90 percent of our school voted for Mitt Romney in the recent election... if the general somber mood around here the last few days is any indicator.

We, like most other schools in the country, are pushing toward alignment with Common Core standards, which has consumed much of my focus the last couple weeks.

I still love educational technology. In my blog reading, I recently stumbled upon Yummy Math, which is a blog which attempts to teach math in a fun, interactive way.  The best thing about it is that nearly every lesson  has the Common Core standards that it meets listed at the bottom. Hmmm... Math. Fun. Technology. Common Core without thinking too hard.  What's not to love?

Digging deeper, I saw a lesson on the electoral college, and I knew that this was the place to start my math yumminess. I started Monday morning with my 5th and 6th graders in the computer lab, where we watched the electoral college video by New York Times then dug into the questions provided by Yummy Math.  Now, you need to realize that I teach advanced math, and many of these kids are used to things just clicking for them.  They don't need to try to understand stuff; it comes naturally.  So, a number of these kids struggled with getting started.  I was amazed at what they didn't know about senators and representatives.  Then it hit me that they would have no reason to know it since they probably haven't had a civics course yet. We did discover that Google helps considerably when researching a topic we don't know.

Once we got past the initial hurdle of figuring out the changes in representatives and electoral college votes, things went smoothly.  In all, it took about a period and a half for most kids to finish the activity.

Tuesday, I gave the students a blank electoral college map to color that evening. I encouraged parents to allow their kids to stay up late and color the maps in as the night proceeded.  In exchange, I made math class the next day a "blow off" day allowing books and iPads with no formal teaching.

As I said early in the post, we are largely Republican around here. That lead to some interesting conversations come Wednesday morning.  The good news is that we already laid the groundwork by discussing electoral college and how the entire process works.  Later in the day, a student who did not do this activity with me looked at all the red on the map and couldn't understand how Romney lost.  He didn't have the electoral background that the other kids did.

Overall, I give two thumbs up to Yummy Math for helping me teach a difficult concept.  Thanks!  I'll be using your yumminess again soon.

Oh, and Brian Marks at Yummy Math makes for a great Twitter conversationalist.  You know how I love to interact with the developers!

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