July 13, 2009
The Math Class that Ended Up in Circles!
It was a Friday Math class. We were discussing exam results – not a very interesting topic. Toward the end of the session, I decided to change the mood a bit, have some "fun" to balance out the "exam" flavor.
A few days back, the children had been asked to cut some circles from paper, so with this preparation already done, I took one of the circles and folded it into one-eighth segments (fractions). I made some cuts along the two radial edges. I then unfolded the circle to reveal a very nice, fully symmetrical pattern. The children and Biswajit started to try the exercise using their own circles and many different patterns came out. Sometimes the students were encouraged to refold the circles back and make a few more cuts to bring out the designs. Gradually, we saw some very intricate designs develop. Soon they all started to use their second circles, as the first ones had no more space to cut out from. Next, out came their third ones, fourth ones, etc... The circles had now become a very prized possession for those who had diligently cut them out beforehand.
The children were obviously pleased with their designs and wanted to display them so they brought down a large sheet of paper that had been sitting around, and pasted their patterned circles all over it. They wanted to hang it right at the front entrance to our school and I let them!
After seeing this poster of patterned circles, the younger children naturally became interested and the activity was repeated in their own class, with some help from Biswajit. Some of them did even smaller sectors to begin with.
The next day, some children from Praajak came to Shikshamitra to watch a movie. As the domino effect took root, it seemed that they also wanted to try their hand at cutting patterns into the circles. With them, we also did some patterns on the long strips of paper that were left over from cutting out the circles. A few of the teachers also joined in and we found that some of the strip designs could be worn as bracelets. At the end of the day, every one of the Praajak children left the school with one of these bracelets around their wrists.
Soooo, how is this related to math? you ask?
Well, it was a good way to introduce and explain fractions to begin with; and the concepts of rotation (circular design) and translation (strip pattern) also came into play.