Math anxiety is a wide-spread phenomenon in the United States; while few people would admit publicly that they aren’t good at reading, it seems socially acceptable to claim, “I’m not good at math.” This attitude can limit people’s access to educational opportunities and even careers. At the same time, both adults and children participate enthusiastically in making and tinkering activities, which often involve (implicit) mathematical reasoning. These mathematical aspects of making, however, are rarely highlighted or recognized by either the participants or the facilitators.
The Math in the Making project builds on this question: Can we leverage participation and success in making to help people change their self-image with respect to math? In other words: Can someone who thinks they aren’t very good at math come to see themselves as mathematically competent through making?
In May 2016, researchers from TERC and the Institute for Learning Innovation brought together math educators and designers of maker spaces to explore these and other related questions in a 2-day workshop at the NY Hall of Science.
This video provides a variety of examples of our approach to building bridges of understanding and collaboration across these communities and invites you to join us as we explore new opportunities to find the math in making.
Math anxiety is a wide-spread phenomenon in the United States; while few people would admit publicly that they aren’t good at reading, it seems socially acceptable to claim, “I’m not good at math.” This attitude can limit people’s access to educational opportunities and even careers. At the same time, both adults and children participate enthusiastically in making and tinkering activities, which often involve (implicit) mathematical reasoning. These mathematical aspects of making, however, are rarely highlighted or recognized by either the participants or the facilitators.
The Math in the Making project builds on this question: Can we leverage participation and success in making to help people change their self-image with respect to math? In other words: Can someone who thinks they aren’t very good at math come to see themselves as mathematically competent through making?
In May 2016, researchers from TERC and the Institute for Learning Innovation brought together math educators and designers of maker spaces to explore these and other related questions in a 2-day workshop at the NY Hall of Science.
This video provides a variety of examples of our approach to building bridges of understanding and collaboration across these communities and invites you to join us as we explore new opportunities to find the math in making.
Andee Rubin
We're excited to share a glimpse of the Math in the Making workshop with the broader community, and we're eager to hear your reactions. Are you a maker? Do you think you use math in the process of making? Would knowing that you're thinking mathematically change your experience of making? What opportunities do you see to "bring out the math" in making and tinkering experiences? Perhaps you have well-developed Math Eyes yourself and enjoy finding math in unexpected places.
The Math in the Making workshop was just the beginning of what we hope will be an ongoing process, so please let us know if you'd like to be part of the discussion by sending us your name and email -- or leaving it in a comment on the video.
Jan Mokros
There are so many intersections of making and math, and these became very apparent at The Math in the Making workshop. Check out Vi Hart's mathematical machines and musical instruments, as well as "The Never Ending Bloom" video on John Edwards work from Science Friday, which makes a lot of use of the golden angle and golden mean. While I'm skeptical about STEAM in general, when you zero in on math and making art, you can truly "see" math.
https://mainerepublicemailalert.com/2017/04/29/meet-the-artist-who-uses-math-to-make-never-ending-blooming-sculptures/
Neil Plotnick
Andee Rubin
Thanks for your comment, Jan, and for the pointers to math/making resources. We'll add them to the math in the making website: mathinthemaking.terc.edu If anyone else has resources to share please post a comment including them.
Neil Plotnick
I am wondering if there is any natural "tension" between math and makers. How do you see the balance between the organic freedom in making with the more analytical approach in math? Are participants actively stopping the creation to take measurements or comment on gear ratios and angles or does the general approach attempt to uncover the underlying math incrementally at various stages of construction?
Andee Rubin
Neil -
It is certainly the case that there is potential tension between math (especially as it is practiced in classrooms) and making. This was a focus of considerable discussion at the workshop and, while I believe everyone left with more appreciation for the "other" perspective, we didn't come to a general approach that everyone could adopt. In fact, we are planning a follow-up research project to study various ways of integrating math and making, including the timing of highlight the math, the explicitness of math in the activity and whether math was part of the activity design. I recommend people look at our website to read other discussions of this tension and watch some of the keynotes from the workshop, most of which touched on this issue in some way.
On the other hand, I think there are "myths" about math - like "introducing math impedes creativity" that we want to counter by making sure that the math integrated in making activities is consequential, not added on inauthentically in a way that would detract from the spirit of making.
Sarah Hampton
Miriam Gates
This is a really exciting project, and it seems like a real challenge as Neil noted. I'm wondering if you can talk a bit about how you designed the conference to get the most out of the inter-disciplinary conversations. For example, were there questions that were particularly helpful to ensuring synergy was uncovered? Were there discussions that really highlighted where the disciplines differed?
Sarah Hampton
What are you hoping to do with your discoveries? As a math teacher, I would love to see you create a place with maker activities sorted by math topic. I need a resource for inexpensive, hands-on opportunities that help students better conceptually understand math.
I love finding math in unexpected places! How can I help?
Judi Fusco
Andee Rubin
Sarah -
Thanks for your comment and your enthusiasm. Please take a look at our website, where we will be posting a list of resources that attempt to integrate math and making (in the next few weeks). However, the successful integration of math and making is also in the framing and facilitation of activities - an open-ended making activity can end up feeling constrained if the goal is a math concept, rather than the joy of making. If you would like to be on our mailing list, please sign up on our website as well.
Sarah Hampton
Nicole Reitz-Larsen
I'm excited to see that makers and math are working together. Students love making, but often times I don't see students using any computational practices when making, thus no connection to what they are doing, why and how to connect it to computer science or STEM.
What kind of practices are teachers using when doing these activities to bring out the computational thinking or practices? What kind of professional development are teachers getting to help bridge open play/learning with specific concepts?
Have you talked with any groups about doing a collaborative work with Makers and Science or Makers and Language Arts or is there a way to tie all of them together in the activities?
Judi Fusco
Judi Fusco
These are great questions! I see Andee has a response, but thank you for asking, Nicole!
Andee Rubin
Thanks for your comment, Nicole. You raise important questions about the disciplinary potential of making and tinkering. How can we help students be aware of the transferable knowledge/skills/dispositions they encounter in the course of making without turning those experiences into something that they no longer love? While we are exploring these questions (and tensions - see above response to Neil) in the context of math, we hope that the work we do will result in findings and principles that can inform other questions about disciplinary learning in making environments. This is not to suggest at all that there is not enormous value in the process and inter-personal skills that students acquire and enhance while they are involved in making, but if students' enthusiasm for making can change their views of themselves around math, science or language arts, there could be significant added value.
Judi Fusco
Nicole Reitz-Larsen
I look forward to hearing more about your project.
Allison Martinson
This project sounds great and I would love to know more about how I can bring math to making. Our Girl Scouts constantly ask for more math-based programs and I'm unsure how to provide for them without making a program event feel like school. Do you have specific outcomes that you're planning to measure with this program? And are you looking for collaborators within the informal learning community?
Andee Rubin
Thanks for your comment, Allison! The main goals of the workshop were to bring together the (informal) math and making communities to discover both their shared values (of which there were many) and the possible points of tension (of which there were also several). In that regard, it was a huge success - and our evaluation report, which will be posted on our website soon, shows that. There are even a few collaborations that have already taken place based on contacts made at the workshop. In the longer term, we are planning research on how to best highlight the mathematics in making, looking at both facilitated and un-facilitated settings. While our first research efforts will be small, we hope to eventually have a large research study and will be looking for more collaborators in the informal learning community at that time.
Also, as I've mentioned in a few other comments, please look at our website for a soon-to-be-posted list of math in making resources.
Martin Storksdieck
I like the exploration of (where) is there math in making? I am also wondering about the reverse, which may help math teachers and broaden the appeal of the concepts you explored during the workshop (which sounds like having been a marvelous event).
Judi Fusco
Andee Rubin
Yes, it was a marvelous event - thanks for noticing!
I'm hoping that the resources we post on the website will be helpful to both informal educators and teachers - although we've curated them with an eye toward informal environments, so we haven't posted some activities that might be fine in a classroom - but would bomb in a free choice environment. One category that I think has potential for both contexts is origami and its related paper crafts, like flexagons. There will be several links on the website to origami resources, both physical and digital.
meerz meerz
Excited to here more about this!
Neil Plotnick
In a related note....
My school district is planning on bringing back a vocational program to our students. We used to have a fully developed vocational program that was allowed to lapse about 20 years ago. There are so many students that can benefit from hands-on learning that shop classes provide. In the mid 1970s, my brothers were required to take mechanical drawing in junior high. I took wood shop and cooking during my school years. It exposed me to math concepts through drawing, measurements and other tasks. The fun aspect of creating something certainly enhances learning.
Andee Rubin
I've been in several conversations recently about the state and status of vocational education. In some ways, vocational courses embody effective learning approaches that are absent from the more "academic" courses - and what a shame that is! Where did our educational system get the idea that using one's hands and working with materials to create a physical object is appropriate only for those whose eventual career goals are "vocational."
Lien Diaz
This seems like an exciting project to bridge the intersection of mathematics and "making" which I translate as connecting mathematics to things that are real in the world we live in today. And though it may seem intimidating at first, I think it is important to figure out ways to help the teaching and learning of important mathematical concepts via "making". This could be transformational in how mathematics can be taught and learned. Are there plans to take a step in piloting these ideas in classrooms?
Andee Rubin
Thanks for your comment, Lien. While we've been focusing on "making" as it occurs in settings outside of school, I do think there are "making" activities that could work in a classroom. But as I commented above to Martin, some activities that might work well in a classroom, where students have particular expectations, would feel too "school-like" in a museum or maker space. And some activities that would fare well in a museum might not be focused enough to satisfy academic requirements. These complexities are part of what we're trying to understand and communicate in more detail.
Eric Siegel
Hello Andee and all, I am very curious to hear more about this as it evolves, and admit to feeling a bit nostalgic seeing so many smart, creative, fun, and thoughtful people in this workshop! We did some work with Dick Lesh early on in thinking through the DesignLab. One of the great ideas he helped us with is using shadows as a math modeling exercise, which found its way into a few of our exhibition designs, including the shadow puppet activities in design lab. I am sure you and your colleagues know about his work conceptualizing math education as a design process. https://www.researchgate.net/file.PostFileLoade...
Andee Rubin
Thanks, Eric, for your comment and the reminder about Dick's work. I'm glad the video made you nostalgic - you certainly have a lot to be proud of in the DesignLab and I think the workshop pushed the work there even further. Shadows are, indeed, a source of interesting mathematical inquiry, especially when they are explored in the context of shadow puppets. I always learn so much when I visit NySCI!
Judi Fusco
Thank you for sharing about this project. I will share your website and encourage some wonderful practitioners I know to sign up for updates and to get involved if they can!
Andee Rubin
Thanks, Judi! We hope to continue this body of work with help from researchers and practitioners!
Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.