As my teaching geometry in the elementary classroom class is coming to a close, we traveled to a school in Spring Lake to see how these techniques we learned would really play out in the classroom. It seemed fitting that my group would be teaching in an art class where we of course would be focusing on math integration as integration into the arts as well as other subjects seemed to be a trend all semester. However, this was what made me the most excited about going into this class. I felt that I had more tools that would help students to see math in more of the light that I do—that it is a fun challenge—and I was excited to see how this would play out in the class I was going to be visiting.
Walking up to the West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics, I wouldn’t say that I was walking in to what I had expected. Something about this school seemed different, and that started with how it was set up, and the mural that was painted on the outside of the building. As I walked into the school I noticed that there were many, many different student created pieces of art that decorated the walls. As I made my way down to the art room, I was amazed at the music that I was hearing come from the different rooms. Students were dancing, laughing, all around having fun. All I could think was that this is how students should learn.
As this was a very different environment than I felt that I had been taught in or experienced teaching in, I was both hesitant and excited that this was where I would be spending the next hour. I felt very welcomed both by the students and the teachers, as the students were eager to participate in the opening part of the mini fraction lesson that we would be giving.
After introducing the lesson, it was great to see that the students were eager and excited to get started. It was in this time when the students started working that I thought I got the most valuable experience. I spent this time answering student questions about how to cut certain fraction pieces from what they had. I had a great time with the students one-on-one helping scaffold them to think about the fractions they had made already and think about how they made these and how this could help them make the next fraction.
One student that I struggled scaffolding for was a boy who insisted that he had created a fraction that was 1/19th. After asking how he did this, he proceeded to show me some pattern of intricate folds in which he folded in half, opened up, and refolded the shape. My first thought was to ask him to count the pieces that he had created with the folds, but unfortunately the folds were not created cleanly enough, so 19 pieces were counted as large fold creases were also counted as a piece. Instead of continuing on with the student in this way I wish that I would have grabbed a larger piece of paper that the student could then use to fold easier and see that the pieces that he was creating, were not equal, nor were there 19 of them. I think that this is a great way to apply the idea of learning through inquiry to math concepts that students are learning. I thought it was great that this student was exploring and trying to create a unique fraction, however he needed a method that he could use that would help him self-correct.
Although there were many students that took the time given to them to complete the activity, I think that this lesson would benefit from an extension activity. I think that there are a few different extension ideas that could be beneficial for the students depending on what subject you wanted the students to focus in. I think that an art extension could be challenging the students to think about the colors they are using in their picture and fractions and having them focus on how they relate to one another on the color wheel, and what tone they are bringing to their picture by using colors that are opposite or adjacent to each other. I think that an interesting math extension for this activity could be challenging students to create a picture using exactly 3 and 5/8ths. In doing this students would have to know how to add fractions with different denominators and possibly even subtract fractions in order to get the exact amount of paper to complete the activity.
Overall, I was grateful for the experience and practice to be in front of a class helping lead an activity. I was amazed by these students creative abilities and their persistence to find a way to make these fractions work in their picture. Putting some of the things that I have learned to practice in this class was exciting and I look forward to the time when I am in a classroom again and use more techniques and methods with my students. I also felt that one aspect of this experience that I will take away is that learning is messy, it is loud, and it very rarely happens within the confines of the desks that students are sitting in. I know that I will not let these “typical” boundaries placed around learning hold back my students from being the very best that they can.