Monday, April 13, 2015

Leave things around

Who: J2
What: an exponential fractal bug

As part of our summer vacation, we are doing activities from the Moebius Noodles Multiplication Explorers course. I may write later about the activities themselves, but first wanted to share an observation about getting involvement. The question is: how do we get the kids to participate in an educational activity we want them to do?

Leave it lying around
Again and again, I get the most mileage from just making materials available and around. In this case, I made a tree fractal bug from the suggestions in the ME course. While I was thinking (out loud) about what to draw and how the pattern would work, the kids expressed very little interest. Undeterred, I made my own picture and left it lying around the house.

Today, J2 picked it up and started asking me questions about it. Of course, he also wanted to fill in the bug bodies:

This naturally led to a bunch of mathematical questions: how many bugs are there (at each different level), how many body segments are there to be colored, how many eyes, if we added a new layer...

A technical note
So, should we leave lots of things lying around the house? Yes and no. What we have found is that our kids respond best to an environment that is nearly pristine, with a couple of items around to catch their attention. When the environment is too cluttered, everything gets ignored in the background. On the other hand, a perfectly tidy and sterile environment also isn't optimal. It is simply much easier to respond to something that is already present than to proactively seek out a particular activity, building set, etc.

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