Upcycle and Play with Maths Ideas
If you have been to our workshops you know that we use what we like to call fluid materials for maths. These are non-commercial cheap resources that we don’t have to be precious about nor do we have to confine our thinking in any particular ways.
- While reflecting about themes for the new year the following thoughts emerged and will form the basis of classroom based action research that some of the schools that we are continuing to work with in 2017 will be inquiring about:
- Do we need fancy expensive maths kits?
- Do fixed or linear materials confine and structure mathematical thinking to soon and too rigidly?
- Could some everyday and upcycled materials provoke curiosity through ‘what ifs’ and ‘what elses’?
We have been making a list of free and collectable or consumable (no we won’t be eating them) materials. Shells if you live near a beach are all natural, free and accessible. However we can’t all go shell collecting. My thoughts moved onto the questions:
“How can we upcycle every-day, free and found items to make them intrinsically appealing to students and provoke questions and curiosity both for ourselves and with the students?”
Maths is not just about pencil and paper it is about thinking, creativity, exploring, solving and so much more. My first choice of upcyclable resources to think about was dried beans.
Magnitude and Numerosity with Coloured Beans
I have used dried beans for years but for some reason never coloured them before. As you can see they are easy to dye with harmless food colouring.
Even before I began to think about how to use them in the classroom I found myself having to think through some mathematical issues, concerned with creating them in the first place, e.g.,
- Estimating how many beans in a bag and how many bags I might need.
- Deciding how many colours would be needed.
- Wondering about the ratio of water to food colouring and how much mix to make and how long to leave the beans to soak and how long to allow for them to dry.
- Should I make equal sized groups of each colour or different sized random groups or proportional groups?
The Inquiry Process
As I was pondering these things it occurred to me that the maths involved even at the planning stage was considerable and should be shared with students. Even better of course would be the students generating such questions and investigating them themselves. They could then engage in the process of making their own maths resource and ideas for using them.
So what can we do with the coloured beans?
Watch this space over the next few days for ideas and add ideas of your own or make comments.
END DAY 1