Reflections on Making Room for Creativity in Math

math blog

Tons of things happened when I made room for creativity in math. My students and I:

  • thought
  • 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!

 

Mini-C creativity and Me!

Oh my GOSH! I cannot believe how long it has been since I last posted. Teaching, writing, wigging out about my health, and training for a half marathon, have kept me really busy. But, the good news is, I am BACK! YAY!!! (Hope you are as happy about that as I am.)

A while back, I talked about mini-c creativity. Mini-c creativity is beginning creativity that is self-judged versus judged by others. If it’s novel, useful and meaningful to the person experiencing it, then it is valuable and creative.

I had a mini-c creativity moment today. It was fantabulous, if I do say so myself! When I realized it was mini-c creativity, I laughed out loud, and experienced a new-found appreciation for the insight of Kaufman and Beghetto!

My kindergarteners and I worked with clay today. I’ll post photos and talk about the process another time. For now, I just want to talk about the prep.

I had a list of things to do.

  1. Cut cardboard for the girls to use as a working board.
  2. Find the sponges and various other simple tools.
  3. Bring home some clay to make the slip. (Slip is the watered down clay that acts like glue, and is super fun for kindergarteners to use!)
  4. Buy some plastic to use as mats and make clean up easier.
  5. Buy a plastic container to use when making and storing the slip.
  6. Make the slip.

Unfortunately that list was in my head, not on a piece of paper.

When I got home at 8PM ready to make the slip, I realized I had failed to buy the container to use when making the slip. Eee GADS!!! I didn’t want to go back out, but I didn’t have a suitable container at home, but, did I mention, I didn’t want to go back out?!?!!? Ugh, what was I going to do?

I decided to take a deep breath, have a cup of tea, and sleep on it — hopeful that a solution would present itself in the morning

5:30AM rolled around, and sustained by another cup of tea, and some organic sprouted oatmeal, I began the search of my cabinets. “OH!!! A zip lock bag. That might be PERFECT! Easy mixing and no mess!!!” I dumped my clay in the bag, added some water, zipped it securely, and, just to be on the safe side, popped it all into another ziplock bag.

When I got to my classroom I began the smushing process. It was AWESOME!!! What had previously been a rather messy, mildly laborious job, was easy and completely mess free!!!! I highly recommend this method if you don’t have to make a ton of slip.

slip

I was impressed with my own ingenuity, and was feeling quite creative. Then, I thought, “Hmmm, I’m bet ‘clay-experts’ have probably thought of this already. Or perhaps they just don’t wait until the last minute to prep. They might not be very impressed with my idea”

Then I remembered mini-c creativity. My understanding, my learning, my having a new idea, my CREATIVITY in the way I made the slip is fantastic and useful – for me – and therefore, regardless of the judgment of others it is super creative and valuable.

It was really important for me to experience this, because it gave me some insight into what my students may feel. When they have a new idea that is useful, novel and meaningful to them, I need to let them have that moment, and celebrate it with them. If I downplay their discovery, work or idea, I take some really valuable things from them. I, quite likely, rob them of:

  • joy
  • an experience of triumph or victory
  • a sense of competency
  • a willingness to try new ideas
  • a willingness to share these new ideas with others

Mini-c creativity is powerful. So is our response to it.

 

RESOURCES:

Beyond Big and Little: The Four C Model of Creativity – Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009 https://s3.amazonaws.com/jck_articles/Kaufman,+Beghetto+-+2009+-+Beyond+big+and+little+The+four+c+model+of+creativity.pdf