Us and Math: How Play and Creativity Can Heal a Broken Relationship

Welcome! If you came to this blog post because you saw my “Us and Math” talk at the Creative Edge conference at West LA College, you’ll find several resources I mention in my talk below. Feel free to scroll ahead to the “Resources” section.

Please keep the conversation gsoing and let me know how my talk impacted your relationship with math and the experiences of mathematical play you’ve had with children.

To my regular readers…

This post is a little different, but there’s still something in it for you! I gave a talk at a creativity conference to a non-math-educator audience that was very different from our usual audiences at math conferences. The premise of the talk was about how we need to move the conversation of our math identities beyond the simple polarity of “I am a math person” and “I am not a math person.” (Spoiler Alert: I am not a math person.)

I offer a pathway to help us further that conversation by using mathematical play with children as a way to heal our broken relationship with math. I’d love your feedback, reactions, and how this talk has helped further your work. You can find a video screencast of my talk below (or click here if viewing on your phone). I’ll upload a live recording of the talk soon.

Resources for Mathematical Play

Here are some resources that you can use to engage children in mathematical play. Remember to be the “Question Key” and not the answer key when talking to children. Ask them what they notice and what they wonder. Celebrate their reasoning and wonderings as much (if not more) than their answers.

  1. Children love to count things. Find examples in the world that lend themselves to creative counting. Use the questions: How many do you see? How do you count them? How many ways can you count them? You can find several images at Number Talk with Images that might help you get started. You’ll find some of the pictures I used in my talk there as well.
  2. Talking Math with Kids is a website with many ideas for conversations and activities to engage children in mathematical play. Here are some about numbers. This post about Cheez-Its is one of my favorites.
  3. Read books with your children that make mathematical wondering a creative adventure. The Number Devil is one of my favorites. You can easily search for other books online to find the right book for you and your child.
  4. Math Before Bed has several questions that can spark mathematical discussions. Math Recess is also a wonderful resource. Check them out!
  5. Engage in a playful “math fight” by using “Would you rather…” as a prompt. For example, “Would you rather have your height in quarters or $225 cash?” You can help the conversation along by asking: What information might be useful to think about? Find more ideas at Would You Rather Math.
  6. Follow the #Mathgals movement online. You’ll find out about female mathematicians. Learn about these inspiring and courageous women and their contributions. Show your pride with one of these shirts!
  7. Make estimations with children. How many steps until the end of the block? How many seconds do you think it will take the water to boil? How many M&Ms in the (unopened) bag? Find more suggestions here at Estimation180.

How have you engaged in mathematical play?

I’d love to hear what you do to help promote mathematical play for yourself and with children. Please share your learning in the comments section below. Let’s get math-y together!

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