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Side Walk Chalk and Mathematics

September 21, 2013

The school year is off to a great start. Students are excited to learn mathematics and I am even more excited to learn from them. It seems that every class I teach I learn even more. What a great profession.

As a proponent of multiple intelligences (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multiple_intelligences) I start each year by asking students and parents to complete a survey to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the class. This year the class profile showed a preference for working in the bodily-kinesthetic domain so I wanted a chance to play to this strength while building visual-spatial intelligence which was identified as an area needing some support. Sidewalk chalk seemed to be an answer.

We have started the year in both Mathematics 7 and 8 examining geometric concepts. In the past I have used sidewalk chalk as a way to expand the size of the whiteboards in the classroom and take advantage of the great fall weather.

This past week we were examining transformations and I numbered paving stones around the school. After a brief review of translations, rotations and reflections students were asked to identify the single translation that would move one paving stone to the position of a second one. Students had fun examining these transformations and were able to assist each other in making sense of the mathematics.

The best part was that we were able to discuss the importance of having a point of reference when talking about direction. This was not something I had thought about as it is obvious on Cartesian Plane. When standing around the bricks everyone wanted to use their “view” to refer to direction. As a result, “up” for one student was “down” for another or “left” for a third. Soon students realized the value of using the same reference point. As one student said, “that is why we use right and up as positive.” This was a lesson I did not expect to come out of the lesson.

After school I was pleased to hear some students outside of the classroom discussing transformations with their parents. As a math teacher it is great to hear students explaining their thinking to their prarents. I was easily able to assess the learning of these students and give them credit for their work without them even knowing it.

We have used sidewalk chalk for other learning opportunities over the past few years and have always had success. Some other uses include geometric constructions, geometric proofs, squares and square roots and calculating surface area to name a few. I am sure there are other ways to use chalk and I would love to hear ideas that other may have.

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