At the Educating the Creative Mind Conference (Switzerland 2010), Markus Cslovjecsek outlined the instinctive way children learn Maths when provided the opportunity to lead their learning. The anecdote provided a wonderful insight into how students’ self-efficacy can lead to deeper engagement and understanding, including creative thinking, differentiation and peer support.
During a visit to a local 3rd grade classroom, Cslovjecsek witnessed something truly inspiring! The lesson he observed, involved exploring simple addition using one’s, ten’s and hundred’s. In the Australian Curriculum, this would involve outcome ACMNA030 – Solve simple addition and subtraction problems using a range of efficient mental and written strategies.
After the teachers’ instruction and some individual work on a spreadsheet, the students’ participated in a structured exchange involving one student suggesting a number and another filling the number in on a chart displayed on the blackboard. Students’ interchanged these roles and some form of understanding appeared to take place, but what came next surprised everyone! As the student become bored of the exercise, sitting in seats and answering questions, one boy proposed to create a clapping game using the mathematical exercise as inspiration. The boys’ integrated game included body percussion (Music), aural skills (Music) and simple addition using a range of mental strategies (Maths).
The boy proposed that clicking fingers would represent one’s, clapping hands would be ten’s and slapping his chest would comprise hundred’s. He then performed a short body percussion pattern involving a finger click, hand clap and chest slap, then asks his classmates the identify the sum he just performed – “To which sum does this add up to?” The other students, including the teacher, repeated the pattern and identified the answer. Everyone was engaged and the learning experience was either further supported or extended, depending on where the students were in their understanding of the lesson topic.
But the learning did not end there!
The students were so excited and engaged in the integrated pedagogy that they began making their own sums using either the original boy’s body percussion sounds (called timbre in Music), or creatively investigated new ways to represent these simple addition problems. Some thought one’s should be a stomp, while other’s slapped their thighs for the 10’s, which are called patschen in Music education. Students performed their patterns to the class or in small groups, and simple additions where being excitedly calculated throughout the classroom, allowing the teacher to move into the role of facilitator.
Sums could also be addressed in this manner, with short patterns being repeated to represent simple multiplication, or longer patterns could be created to produce more advanced addition problems. A think-pair-share activity could also be explored in this lesson, with students working in pairs, teaching their partner the body percussion pattern they designed, and then combining the two patterns to form a longer addition. The students could then perform their longer addition to the class, who then identify the sum of their longer work(s).
The alignment of mathematical content with music processes and experiences offers great creative potential. It provides new ways to investigate Maths outcomes that encourage students to move from their seats; allowing them to physically and aurally engaged in the learning process, in a fun and social learning environment.