Squares are Trendy


Last night, I was trying to figure out how I was going to structure a day with kindergarten and grade 1 teachers.  The focus of the day was « student transition between kindergarten, a play-based, inquiry learning and Reggio Emelia style approach, to a grade 1 classroom ».  I was thinking, among other things, about how to address the idea that « play » is just that- that there is no learning and it’s just « whatever ».

And then the internet happened.

Annie Fetter announced, via Twitter, her new blog post « #NoticeWonderLove » which talks about a Game About Squares.  Following her instructions, I played the game, got to level 19 (after some time), and thought… Bingo- I’m doing this tomorrow with the teachers.

My starter?  « Go to the website and play ». I said nothing else, turned towards the whiteboard with a marker in my hand and waited.  As they began, I wrote what they said outloud, to each other and the questions they asked.  I purposely didn’t answer their questions.

  • What are we suppose to do?
  • Oh, when you click on the square, it glides.
  • I got to level 3!
  • Its like a game I use to play when I was young, but it was with physical squares on a gameboard.
  • I’m firing a lot synapes!
  • Keep trying…
  • Oh, there’s an « Undo » button
  • Does every level have a solution?
  • No, don’t move it there.  If you do, you won’t be able to get to that spot.
  • Figure it out…
  • My students would love this!
  • We’re on different levels- we’re working at our own rhythm!
  • Do we have to stop!?
  • …and other stuff I haven’t put here

After some time, I was able to get them to stop playing.  I wanted to go through their comments and questions with them to get them thinking about what had just occurred.

Perseverance, problem solving, trying something even when you don’t know what to do, strategic trial and error, planning, logic, engagement, noticing, visualization, collaboration and learning from your peers were some of the ideas that came out.

All of that from just « playing ».  Huh.  Seems to be a lot of learnin’ going on.

So how does all fo this tie into the classroom I asked?

Stop talking. Say less.

Don’t rob students of the opportunity to try something when they don’t know what to do. Let them try it on their own.

Don’t answer students’ questions (or at least answer less).

From « I-We-You » to « You-We-I »;  where the « I », as in the teacher, means that we make students learning explicit through conversation, questionning and metacognition (i.e.- What did you do when you didn’t know what to do?) after they did stuff on their own.

It was a great start to the day and it brought to the forefront some great ideas not only about what we can learn by playing games but also about teaching math in general.

What would I have done if not for Annie….?

Confession: I stole the title of this post from the creator of the game here.  Thanks Andrey- as they say in Russia « Я у вас в долгу« .



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