Monday, February 27, 2012

Student Teachers, Dancing Rice and School Buses

I have an incredible group of student teachers this semester and sometimes they even outdo themselves in terms of sheer brilliance. For example, one of them has been doing a science activity with groups of students involving dancing rice (this activity uses different materials but the idea is the same). After doing the activity with several students groups ( first and second grade students) she was not happy with the speed at which the rice grains moved up and down in the liquid. Convinced the activity should work much better she decided to have the students experiment with different types of rice. After several trials the students discovered that the activity worked best with brown rice. They looked at the rice grains closely, observing carefully like all good scientists do, and discovered that the brown rice grains were lighter but larger than the white rice grains and so could  attach more carbonate bubbles to themselves than the white rice grains. This was as far as she needed to go with the scientific explanation with children of this age. The neat thing is that she got them to think like scientists by looking at variables.

Another great story from my grad math class last week. Helping students understand the difference between odd and even numbers is often quite difficult. It's relatively easy to teach the even numbers as 0, 2,4,6,8 and the odds as 1,3,5,7,9, but to teach why is more complex. I usually advocate using the pairs idea; in each even number every object has a partner and in odd numbers they don't. Well one of my grad students says she uses the "old school bus/new school bus trick". Intrigued I asked "What is that?".

She responded that odd numbers are like the old school buses with the hood sticking out in front and even numbers are like the new school buses which are straight down at the front so that it is easier for the drivers to see if students are crossing in front of the bus. If you use cubes, in pairs stacked one on the other with each pair next to each other,  to represent each type of bus you can see exactly what she means. The odd numbers have an extra, unpaired cube sticking out to represent the hood of the old type of school bus.

See what I mean;  isn't that cool

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