Month: June 2017

Sports + Smarts

If you are a teacher and short on school resources, you must get creative and use your imagination. Money just doesn’t appear in the budget and important programs, like art, music and sports are the first to be cut. They are all vital and you must find a way to restore them on your own. You can combine music and athletic movement, for example, or art and literature. Kids can illustrate stories from their reading books. They can act them out to music. This seems like a poor substitute for sports and it is. There has always been a need for balance in education. Reducing exercise to a very short recess time is not enough to create a healthy well-rounded child.

There is nothing like sports to build self-confidence and skill. Kids are proud of even little accomplishments. They also learn discipline by being on a team and having to adhere to the rules of play and good sportsmanship. They learn to share and help one another become better. I always see an enormous improvement in behavior after a program of daily sports. Grades seem to go up naturally when kids are energized. The proof in the pudding is that sports yield smarts.

I love basketball and basketball blogs like this one and I’ve found that most kids do as well. Since there is a built-in hoop on the playground, all I needed was a smaller sized ball. The older kids regularly trained for this sport and I copied some of their movements and exercises. I just had to modify them slightly for a younger group. Their regime included stretching and reaching, knee bends, touching the toes while standing, and twisting the core. It was adorable seeing the older children side by side with the tots. It was like a twin experience. My kids got a big kick out of imitating the higher grades. In turn, the little ones inspired them to be diligent and do more. This kind of combined program enriches any school and is popular with teachers and parents alike.

I fought to make basketball training a regular part of the daily regime alongside the usual academics. A short break even makes kids concentrate better and remember the material for a longer period of time. Test scores skyrocketed, which pleased the administration. Now they are seriously considering adding sports for the younger grades to next year’s budget. I am in there touting the benefits and showing the results. I got the parents to sign a petition speaking to the necessity of a stronger exercise program. All these tactics worked. I was pleased to be called into the principal’s office where I was told to start thinking ahead. I could create some model sports lessons to share with other teachers. I might even give a talk at a general teacher’s meeting for our region. These occur once a quarter at which time new ideas are exchanged. I was more than happy to participate and share the good news. Hurray for sports in education!

Here’s Why We Need Math

Everyone remembers math time in school. We had it every day. We had to repeat our tables endlessly to learn them by rote. Mom or dad would drill us at home so we could ace the quizzes. Some kids catch on really fast and math becomes a life-long forte. Others struggle and need a bit of help. It sometimes gets easier when the teacher relates math to everyday life.

Do you remember those lengthy word problems we had to solve in elementary school? Some were so hard we groaned in fear. We preferred our math tables since they were easier. Here is an example: Mrs. Smith has 17 cupcakes. She wants to share them equally among her three children so that no one gets more than anyone else. If she gives each child as many cupcakes as possible, how many cupcakes will be left over for Mrs. Smith to eat. It just goes to show how math can enter our everyday lives. We need math to calculate how much fabric we need to make a dress or how much seed to buy to grow grass on a fifteen by twenty-foot lawn. We often use basic math to calculate a tip in a restaurant, to get our average weight for a month, or to calculate how many planes can fit into a hangar that is 300 feet long if each airplane is 40 feet in length.

I could go on and on to illustrate why we need math. Recently my class was given the problem of how to determine what size tankless water heater to buy for a three by three-foot space. It was something that they’ll face in real life, and I got the idea from Twitter. We often give such puzzles to give the class an answer to questions about math such as “why do we need to know division or multiplication?” You never know when you will use your skills. If mom or dad asked you to help select an appliance, you will be able to pop up with the best for the given space. Now won’t they be proud. You can tell them if there will be any room to store a mop or broom next to the new unit. It is a bit simpler with a tankless unit since they are known to be smaller than conventional heaters and they come in multiple sizes. No doubt the more you spend, the larger the capacity and dimensions. Not every home needs the giant ten-shower model. Help select what is needed by estimating the number of showers taken in the morning by family members and how many gallons of hot water per individual shower.

I love these kinds of math problems as they teach kids about practical thinking along with improving their skills. They will encounter them on evaluation tests through schools and ultimately the SAT for college qualification. Math is half your score. In any case, I like to show how math permeates our lives and helps us improve our decision making.