## Sunday, July 5, 2009

### Summer math projects: 2009

A Mathematical Scavenger Hunt at the Library

Go the the city library--either the main library or a branch library. Do the following activities and record all of this information in an attractive booklet or on a poster. Plan ahead since you may need more than one visit to do everything on the list

1. Draw a sketch of the front of the library on 8.5 X 11 paper. Show the windows and doors. Estimate the width and height of the building and show these dimensions on your sketch. Explain the strategy you used to make your estimate.

2. Go to a room in the library. Make a sketch of the floor plan of the room. Estimate the length and width of the room. What is your estimate of the area of the room? Explain the strategy you used to make your estimate

3. Find a section of the books that you like. Write down the types of books you chose. Place your forearm along the shelf and count how many books there are from the tip o your elbow to the tip of your fingers.

4. Estimate the number of books in this room. Explain what strategy you used to come up with your estimate.

5. Find a chart showing the Dewey decimal numbers for the categories of books in the library. Copy the information to the chart.

7. Check out a non-fiction book that you would like to read. List its title, author, and Dewey decimal number.

Bring the project to school on the first day. Your teacher will use the data you have collected for class.

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Just reading through this list exhausts me. From it emerges another, no less exhausting, list:

1. Multiple trips with my autistic son to the library--is there any other public place in the universe where it's more important that I somehow prevent him from being disruptive?

2. Yet more arts and crafts tasks required of someone with no motivation for such activities, and who must be prodded step-by-step through each and every one.

3. Yet more verbal explanations required of someone who not only struggles to verbalize his thinking, but does math in his head without verbalizing it.

4. Yet more watered down math for someone who's been measuring and estimating for years, and who will find nothing intriguing about Dewey decimals and books per forearm.

5. Best case scenario: five hours of my time, and J's, under maximum stress and tedium for both of us. How many other far more enjoyable ways might there be to spend this time--mathematically--with my math-loving boy?

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I'm not alone in these gripes; even parents of neurotypical children are moaning over this assignment. How I wish teachers could overhear our conversations.

And how I wish I could assign teachers the following summer project:

Consult with the parents of your students before assigning a summer project to us--for who, all too often, ends up doing most of the work? Then, in the words of the Scavenger Hunt project above, "use the data you have collected."

Catherine Johnson said...

brilliant!

Eowyn said...

What happens if J doesn't do the project?

I've come to conclude that sometimes the best response to stupid makework idiocy is to take a deep breath, square the shoulders, and ... do something else.

lgm said...

#4 on your list sounds like a Microsoft interview question. #1 my mathy kid would like...he'd use that 6th grade similar triangle lesson with shadows and his body to estimate the height of the library and think that would be really cool to illustrate.

No summer math assignment for middle schoolers here.. just English. It amazes me that the students can read on their ownin the summer, but during the school year they are forced to listen to a recording of the class novel, wasting valuable class time.

Beth said...

Please, do all of us parents a big favor and just refuse to do the project. Make up a petition and have your fellow grumblers sign it. Otherwise the schools will just continue to waste everyone's time with annoying busywork.

Mrs. C said...

Time to "just say no." :]

Claire said...

This alone would explain the declining interest and ability in math found across the country. I suspect the teacher's poor math skills are behind this.