Tons of things happened when I made room for creativity in math. My students and I:
- shared our thinking
- struggled with moments of confusion, not knowing, and even small failures
- laughed at ourselves, and laughed with each other
- challenged one another’s thinking, explanations, illustrations, words, and math
- encouraged one another to keep at it and not give up
- were creative – in our ideas for the math story, in our illustrations, and in our explanations
- transferred our math knowledge to our real life, and our real life to our math work and thought
- persuaded others regarding our thoughts and conclusions
- worked to understand each other’s point of view
- did a lot of math
- drew some great illustrations
- enjoyed seeing our ideas in print
But, what surprised me the most was the depth of understanding this exercise afforded me!
My girls all have a basic understanding of addition and subtraction, and they all employ various strategies to solve simple number sentences. Some have a greater comfort than others manipulating numbers, and actively seek the opportunity to share their adding/subtracting prowess. While I was excited to experience the thought and creativity of all my girls, I was particularly interested in what these girls would do with the challenge. I imagined their math skills would allow them to revel in the thinking, and come up with great, inventive ideas. I never imagined what happened for a few of them.
They could not complete the task!They came up with many number sentences and easily solved them. But, they struggled to find a way to connect their number sentences to real life. They seemed perplexed as to why anyone would do that, and honestly, seemed to feel a bit betrayed by me for asking them to do so! We worked through it together, and they were able to, joyfully, produce work that made sense to them and their friends.
It was fascinating! This wide open exercise that combined life, art, math, writing, thinking and communicating, allowed my girls to show – in a new and insightful way – what they did, and did not, understand. It was an amazing assessment opportunity – of their learning, and my teaching!