Monday, November 28, 2011

Math Manipulatives

Open your mind to possibility, and you can imagine everything possible. Theresa Wiza

Creativity! I have always loved that word. It pulls from one area and connects to another – or lots of "anothers" – in ways nobody ever imagined. Whether it results in the form of artwork, artistic forms of expression in other media, insightful thought processes, magnificent room designs, or culinary delights, the creative process allows us to use our talents and enrich our lives. 

An added benefit to our own creative endeavors is that we can enhance the lives of others as well. Creativity is magical.

We all marvel at the genius of musical expressions, entertaining movies, and sumptuous feasts. They stir our emotions. They excite us. When artists put two or more ingredients together to form a completely different item, sparks of delight gleam from our eyes.

That gleam is absent in many of our children, though, who learn from uninteresting or uncaring instructors. If only parents and educators taught more creatively, rather than through rote learning procedures, children would be more engaged in learning and they would think learning was a fun experience rather than a chore. 

And though you might not consider numbers to be creative, let me assure you that math manipulatives opened up my mind and allowed me to think in an entirely different way when I was only 12 years old.

Nobody called it Math manipulatives back then. My teacher didn't even call it algebra. She called it the New Math. What it entailed was thinking in "what if" terms. Instead of numbers increasing through infinity with the representation of each number appearing as 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., what if they went only to three, for example? How would the concept of higher numbers be represented? I don't remember the procedure, but I remember the concept, and if anybody remembers this type of math, please feel free to respond with the actual formula. 

In the previous example, if Number Four didn't exist, the way to represent the number four would be to work in "powers." Perhaps the answer for four was three to the first power plus one to the first power. Conceptualizing math in that manner at that age stretched the imagination. In trying to comprehend the New Math, I learned two enlightening concepts: possibilities exist everywhere and imagination is limitless.

The thought process involved in imagining a number system outside the familiar number system ignited in me a love for creativity. Word games, too, inspired me. Assignments that required me to pull five seemingly unrelated words together to form a cohesive paragraph stretched my imagination and required me to think beyond any preconceived notions about what the assignment was supposed to entail. 

My passion for creativity grew to include writing, crocheting, and design, and I encourage all of my children and grandchildren to pursue their own creative talents – whatever they may be.

Today when it comes to gift shopping, you can probably imagine the types of items I choose for my children and grandchildren – books, games, constructive play things – anything that inspires creativity, imagination, and fun. 

Remember, when you open their minds to possibility, they can imagine everything possible.

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