Montessorium – Math is all around us

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) took the idea that the human has a mathematical mind from the French philosopher Pascal. A mathematical mind, in her words, is “a sort of mind which is built up with exactity.” The mathematical mind tends to estimate, needs to quantify, to see identity, similarity, difference, and patterns, to make order and sequence and to control error. Young children observe and experience the world sensorial. Math is all around them from day one. How old are you? In one hour you will go to school. You were born on the 3rd.

The concrete Montessori materials for arithmetics are materialized abstractions. The child’s growing knowledge of the environment makes it possible for him to have a sense of positioning in space. Numerocity is also related to special orientation. The Montessori materials help the child construct precise and internal order.

Intro to Math by Montessorium elegantly adapts this idea for the use with the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. It provides several activities  to teach the numbers 0-9 and the concepts behind them: arranging a collection of rods from smallest to largest, learning how many bars are in another collection of rods, tracing numbers as they appear on screen, matching written numbers with rods, and matching dots from a box with numbers.

When Montessori meets Montessorium. (c) www.montessorium.com

Maybe Montessori classrooms will include some iPads with Montessorium’s apps in the near future. There is a great potential for an enhanced learning experience using different approaches to the same old idea: that math is all around us.

Intro to Math by Montessorium on the App Store.
Wooden Montessori Materials at www.kidadvance.com.


How to Do Research for Kids

In libraries and on the internet, you can find answers to almost any question you can think of. If you know how to do research, it can be much more fun… and faster too!

This is a very good, board game like online-introduction on how to do research for kids. The award-winning site site was created in 2003 by the Kentucky Virtual Library Kids and Teachers Workgroup, with design and animation by Shere Chamness. Thanks to its clever focus on the essentials of research (plan, search, take notes, use the information, report, evaluate), it is still extremely helpful. Nevertheless, I was wondering if there is any newer version of something like this out there “in the known universe”? I should do some additional research, but now I know exactly how to do.



Crossing the Universe on a Logarithmic Scale

Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames.

“Powers of Ten”, a 1968 short film by Charles and Ray Eames, is a quite impressive application of the logarithmic scale. The film is an adaptation of “Cosmic View”, a 1957 book by Kees Boeke. Both the book and the film deal with very short and very long distances and the relative size of things in the universe. Although Einstein wouldn’t agree with the trip, because very soon the camera travels faster than the speed of light, you should have a look at what it means to cross the universe on a logarithmic scale. Every ten seconds you will add a zero to your distance and stride away from earth by the factor ten: from meters, to 10 meters, 100 meters, 1000 meters and so on. Some minutes later and lightyears away you pass the nearest star. The way back is even faster and leads you through the skin and the DNA to the subatomic scale. Impressive! Enjoy the trip!

Cosmic View by Kees Boeke



Technology and Change

Stewart Smith provides an interesting comparison: Take a doctor from the early 19th century and ask him to take over an operation in an up to date operating theatre where somebody is undergoing an open heart surgery. The 19th century surgeon would probably not be able to continue the operation. Take a 19th century teacher and ask him to continue a math lesson until the end, the reverse is probably true.

In four videos Stewart Smith presents some experience based ideas about how change management and technology integration in schools are possible. You can watch these videos here: Part 1 (2:45), Part 2 (5:19), Part 3 (8:48) and Part 4 (1:42).

Stewart Smith is Director of ICT Strategic Leadership at the London Grid for Learning (LGfL) and ICT Advisor for the London Borough of Brent. On a recent visit to Australia, he outlined the opportunities and challenges of ‘Next Generation Learning’, a program about leading and managing change in London schools.

Web resources: Next Generation Learning, London Grid for Learning, Roar Educate.


I am an Explorer!

Play! The best science teacher ever: I’m an explorer okay, I get curious about everything and I want to investigate all kinds of stuff. (c) Microsoft Research

The Feynman Lectures on Physics have become a long time classic amongst science students around the globe. Last year Bill Gates announced that he had purchased the rights to videos of seven lectures that Feynman gave at Cornell University in 1964 called “The Character of Physical Law”. Microsoft has created a project web site called Tuva that is intended to enhance the videos by annotating them with related digital content. You can watch the videos for free.

If you are wondering why Microsoft has named its project ‘Tuva’ – after a small republic in Siberia, with its capital Kyzyl located near the geographical center of Asia – the following documentary about Feynman made by his good friend Ralph Leighton is definitely a must-see. It is a very personal portrait of a curious mind at large, an explorer, a drummer, a painter, a singer, a teacher, and a scientist who would have preferred to renounce the Nobel prize in 1965 (“I didn’t like the publicity beyond.”), and who died to early to fulfill his last journey.

For further Reading: The Feynman Lectures on Physics and Tuva or Bust!