This week was a strange week for Blue. We ended up doing a few things that, at their core, struck me as antithetical to Brightworks — but we ended up doing them in some pretty Brightworksy ways.
We’ve been doing math in the mornings. All the students are at different levels in math (which admittedly makes it sometimes difficult to teach group lessons), so we’ve mostly been using an online module to assist with lesson instruction. I get them all going at the same time, and they work independently on lessons. I float from student to student and assist. The lessons vary from fractions to inordinate mapping to surface area calculation to logic problems. It’s pretty “real school” like sometimes, and sometimes Blue hates that, and sometimes it’s okay. This week it’s been okay. And then something magical happened.
“Amanda! Can you explain Pythagorean Theorem?” I got asked. “I understand how to figure out the equation, but I don’t really get how it works or why.”
(Yes. Duh. Totally. We’re gonna get off the computer to do this. Meet me in the shop after lunch.)
This simple question turned into an afternoon of math exploration. I set up a series of problems for Clem and Kaia in the shop so they could practice using the Pythagorean Theorem. I cut a length of paracord, used screws as three points on a triangle, and kept moving the points around. For each math problem, I asked them to calculate the length of cord needed to wrap around the triangle. They each solved the problem on paper, and then we tested their answers.
This was all well and good, but why? Why does this work?
“I actually can’t remember,” I told them, and we consulted the internet.
Thank you, Vi Hart, for explaining it so well! We spent the rest of the afternoon testing out triangles and watching more math videos.
In a similar vein, Clem’s project has begun to bloom into a meditation on the intersections of rote memorization and figure drawing. She is testing out the hypothesis that learning about the structures of anatomy will make her a better illustrator of humans. She began by doing a drawing of arms and hands, and is now taking the time to study the bones and muscles that make up the body parts found in her drawing. Then at the end of the study, she will draw the same composition again and compare the two.
We usually don’t explicitly memorize things for the sake of memorizing things, so when Clem came to me one morning this week and asked me to witness her testing herself, it felt a little strange.
Nonetheless, we sat in the dining room and went through the names and correct spelling of the bones that make up the wrist. With this simple activity came a whole discussion about memorization tactics, strategies for spelling words that you don’t have any idea how to pronounce, and also about the structural intricacies of wrist bones. This conversation quickly shifted into a discussion about short-term and long-term memory, and after Clem asked if I would re-test her right then, I then told her to give it a rest and move on to something else.
“I think our brains work the same,” I told her. “Go draw for a bit and come back to this.”
She said no, that she had started making the quiz for the next part of the hand and since earlier in the week I taught her how to use the photocopier, she wanted to prep her testing materials.
(Well, imagine that — excitement about testing!)
Happy Friday, everyone!