The gingerbread house and the common core ! It is possible to have fun and still meet the standards…

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One might wonder if designing and decorating a gingerbread house could be aligned with common core standards or does that just remove the fun?

Self regulation encourages goal setting and self monitoring that can bring a sense of clarity and accomplishment to a project designed for fun during a holiday activity.  For some of the children I noticed self set goals included adding the most candy possible to the house so it could be eaten at home.  This design required some complex thinking, rather than piling the candy in one place the sweets had to be distributed and balanced.  Each personality was evidenced in the way the house was designed and each student was given total creative control.

However, I wondered, would it have hurt to add mathematics?  The base of each house is graham crackers, rectangles form the walls and the top is a triangle.  As the designer begins to choose candies to make each dimension of the house a creative wonder, should the child be reminded that while thinking creatively they can also think strategically?

I watched several children, the self regulated ones, create a house that had been strategically designed.  I observed others who with the help of peers and adults made adjustments to their ideas as they were encouraged to self monitor and change goals if necessary.  I observed the differences in gender, personality, and of course candy likes and dislikes.  In the end I wondered, would this project have been less fun if in a future math lesson each student shared how they designed the gingerbread house, the strategies used for making windows, doors, chimneys, and which candies are still “fresh” after several days.

I don’t think it would diminish the fun if goals were set prior to the holiday fun activity, and re-evaluated afterwards.  Isn’t this what we want our children to apply to do independent projects done away from school?

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Frozen Introduces Fractals!

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What can the new disney movie teach us about fractals?

Fractals are geometric figures, just like rectangles, circles and squares, but fractals have special properties that those figures do not have (http://math.rice.edu/~lanius/frac/).

If you are interested in finding the common core in a fun filled movie, the new disney movie has introduced children to the geometric figure hardly discussed before junior high “FRACTALS”!

While Queen Elsa is unleashing her ice powers she describes her creations as “fractals”.  What a beautiful way to introduce an unknown academic math vocabulary word into the minds and language of young children.

A unit on fractals designed for elementary and middle schoolers can be found at http://math.rice.edu/~lanius/frac/.  fracreal

How wonderful it would be if teachers use the scene in the movie to introduce the language and comprehension of geometry at an early age.  This is what the common core inspires teachers, parents, and educators to do – don’t leave the term “fractals” at the disney movie, bring it into the classroom and learn more about the applications and dimensions of these geometric figures……