Monthly Advice–December

Sometimes less is more.

Sometimes inquiring about something unknown leads to a great discovery.

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As you know, in the United States, the Christmas market is overwhelming.

Before you plan and execute two to three weeks worth of Christmas festivities, insert Christmas-themed worksheets, and read a Christmas-inspired novel each day, consider the following:

  • Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Although considered a Christian holiday, even some Christians do not celebrate Christmas.
  • Christmas celebrations vary wildly. Ethnicity, race, income, religion, are just a few meaningful and highly influential factors that determine any holiday celebration.
    • Is what you do, or include, reflective of your worldview, or many worldviews?
  • There are holidays all year long–why emphasize this one over all others?
    • If the same amount of time is not spent on other celebrations, what exactly gives this holiday added merit in the curriculum?
  • Is spending one lesson on Hanukkah and ten on Christmas really inclusive and meaningful, or does it merely provide a way to assuage guilt?
    • Someone once told me that they knew Christmas well, so that’s why there’s more of it in their classroom. If that’s your rationale, is there anyone to help you? Is there anyone to teach you, and your kids, about other traditions?

This is an ongoing discussion I have had for 11 years in my classroom, and with my coworkers.

I have always taught in public schools, which requires the separation of church and state. I understand that private schools and other forms of schooling may not need to consider religious-based questions in the same way I do.

However, the reflection aspect, thinking about why we do certain things in our classroom, even with the best intentions, is always beneficial.

This month, before you plan anything, I encourage to think critically and plan mindfully. More happens in December than we realize . . .

Mathematical Discussion Topics

Last week I discussed the importance of math-centered literature.. I realize my list of books is small. Since I’m still building my math library, I make it a point to “speak math.”

The opportunity to “speak math” is unlimited; therefore, in addition to books, when can I ask mathematical questions? When can I practice mathematics?

I plan purposefully for mathematical discourse. My questions, my plans, apply learning and make real-world connections.

I have made plans and written suggestions for my classroom and for my students’ families. I have even used some of my ideas with close family and friends. It can be fun and learning-filled, I promise!

The following are questions and ideas I have shared and used:

  • Cooking: thought process and calculations
    • How many cups?
    • How long will it bake?
    • What’s the temperature?
  • Shopping: price estimations and sales reductions
    • The price is $20.99, if it’s 50% off it’ll be about $11.
  • Driving: signs
    • The sign says 45 MPH, that means 45 miles per hour. How long, approximately, will it take to drive 20 miles?
  • Zoos, museums, and parks: number specifications
    • How much does the animal weigh? How much does the animal eat?
    • When was this painting made? How long ago was that?
    • The park costs $10 to enter, I gave them $20, how much change do I get back?

Math is everywhere. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. If we can remind ourselves, and show our kids, how often we apply math in our everyday life they will not only see its value but they will also see themselves as mathematicians–which is a most positive and beautiful way to see themselves.

Favorite books: Early Years Mathematics

Our reading choices regularly neglect mathematics.

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There are tons of books that we happily read to babies. Nostalgia runs deep for cute plots, fuzzy characters, and a bit of laughter.

In our standardized book choices, children receive critical lap-time that develops vocabulary, phonemic and phonological awareness, and all other facets of beginning literacy.

At the same time, we have a plethora of games that continue to build these same skills. Nursery rhymes, hand games, I Spy, etc. all work together to build the requirements and awareness for children to begin reading and writing.

We are building fundamental, incredibly important, building blocks. That is good. That is commendable and absolutely needed.

However, I am here to point out that there is only a bit of math, at times, there is not a focused look on mathematical practice. There is less intention when it comes to the foundations of mathematics.

In my experience, in normal non-school settings as well as school-settings, the same attention to the building blocks of mathematics is absent–maybe minimally present, at best.

We do not speak math. We do not practice math. We do not notice math. Certainly not with the same veracity as we do letters and sounds.

So, this list of favorite books is focused on mathematical practice and discussion. If we can get kids excited and interested about mathematics, as babies, imagine how many more mathematicians–meaning engineers, architects, coders–we can support and create for the world!

Favorite math books for babies:

  • ABCs of Mathematics by Chris Ferrie
  • Introductory Calculus for Infants by Omi Inouye

Favorite math books for young children:

  • The Shape of Things by Dayle Ann Dodds
  • The Greedy Triangle by Syd Hoff
  • Books by Tana Hoban (there are quite a few)
  • Chicka Chicka 1 2 3 by Bill Martin Jr. & Lois Ehlert
  • Books by Stuart J. Murphy (there are many!)
  • Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles by Christopher Wormell