Sometimes an educator comes along whom you have the privilege of
meeting and having a conversation, and she has a huge impact on your
thinking. Last Thursday evening at Seedlings,
excuse the shameless promotion,
Alice, Bob and Cheryl, interviewed Colleen King, an entrepreneur from
She would prefer to be known as a math teacher. Colleen is very
humble as a businesswoman and very impassioned as a math teacher! (Here is the audio of our interview.)
As educators we are always looking for ways to instill a love of
learning to our students. In my opinion, textbook companies, state
education organizations, national and international standards provides
us with the scope and sequence which sets the road map. Then
assessments are supposed to provide the checks and balances which
indicate how we as teachers, schools, states and nations are
performing. We compare ourselves to others and constantly revise and
make improvements to what and how we are teaching. We deliver content,
we ask students to practice for fluency and achievement improvements
and then we move on. At that point most of us consider our job is done,
it is up to the students to hold onto the information and then deliver
it at the appropriate time. This is where Colleen King differs in her
beliefs and delivery.
We have long known that play is the important work of childhood. I
would also recommend that is important to adulthood too, but that is
another story.You can gain more information by researching the old
guys, Piaget and Vygotsky, and the new guys, Mitch Resnick and
Daniel Pink. Here is an interview by Alan November with Daniel Pink.
We know that when children and students play with concepts they
internalize their learning and are better able to demonstrate their
knowledge across many platforms, problems and solutions. We know
students need to reflect and create in order to own their learning. We
usually say we don't have time for this allotment of practice and play.
However, Colleen found a way. She asked students about gaming, she
asked students about motivation and engagement. While it is very important to read, listen and understand how play
should be incrementally woven into our classrooms and our thinking,
Colleen King demonstrates this applied thinking to math in unusual and
engaging ways for our students. Colleen tutored students and observed,
she listened to students and then she went on a crash course and
learned programming to bring this to life.
Please check out her website MathPlaygound.com to get started. I
started with the Fraction Balance, and moved to the
suggested Fraction-Decimal and finally the
When we think about students internalizing fractions, fractions and
decimals and finally fractions and percents, we plan good instruction
and then give many practice examples and hope that the students
understand enough that they will be able to solve problems they
eventually encounter in real life and on assessments. Colleen has done
an excellent job of bridging the math instruction to math play with
gaming, which our students live for. By making games for instructional
practice and play, Colleen has provided a way for students to engage in
the important work of playing with math tools and rules. As stated on
the website, MathPlayground.com "is for elementary and middle school
students". However, I contend that many teachers and adults
would enjoy the challenges and reminders about how to systematically
solve problems and play at math.
As soon as Colleen made this available to students she began seeing how
students were using the new tools. Then students modeled her
presentation videos and they began filming their problem solving
strategies. This is what we want, our students to model, and create.
These students are extending their learning and following in Colleen's
footsteps of living life as a life-long problem solver and learner.You will see from the videos the students made about solving math problems that they have internalized the process enough to begin creating and teaching, just what we want.
I am glad to be sharing this site with you. I shared MathPlayground.com today on my Facebook account and within an hour I received a comment from Katie: " I had no idea about thinking blocks!
Now my plans are set for tomorrow! :) Have a good holiday!" Please
share MathPlayground.com with your students, their parents, and your
friends. Spread the word that it is Math Playtime!
This is part one of a two part series between Cheryl Oakes , Tuesday
and Bob Sprankle, Thursday. Give us some feedback and let us know what
you think about MathPlayground.com