Experiencing Shapes

"This can't be math, it's too much fun!" was heard from Laura Ballerini's second-grade students at Slocum-Skewes Elementary School in Ridgefield, New Jersey, as they constructed models of polygons and polyhedra using marshmallows and toothpicks. Prior to this lesson, the students read these books: Shape Up! Fun with Triangles and Other Polygons, by David Adler (New York: Holiday House, 1998); So Many Circles, So Many Squares, by Tana Hoban (New York: Greenwillow Books, 1998); Shapes, Shapes, Shapes, by Tana Hoban (New York: Mulberry Books, 1995).

The inspiration for this activity was The I Hate Mathematics! Book, by Marilyn Burns (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1975, 57). According to Ballerini, the best part of the activity was seeing the interest that the students had in building their shapes. The students extended the activity by counting the faces, vertices, and edges of their shapes.

Judy Argenta

Ridgefield High School

Ridgefield, NJ 07657

Pokemon Math

I spent the first quarter of the school year attempting to do what many other teachers were trying to do: get my students to stop thinking and talking about their Pokemon cards during class time. I read newspaper articles that decried the cards as being tools of gambling and the bane of our existence, and I could not have agreed more!

One day, a colleague and I listened as my son, who is also mad about Pokemon, explained the phenomenon and how the cards work. We were amazed to discover the amount of mathematics lurking in those cards! Why not use the intense passion that our students have for these cards to teach them mathematics?

For ten years, I have been telling my students that they had to learn mathematics that is relevant to the adult world. When they resisted, I would challenge, inspire, and even threaten, by saying, "You must learn this because next year the mathematics will be even harder!" The NCTM's Standards challenge teachers to enter the world of children and help them make connections between mathematics and the world that is relevant to them.

Before I began developing my idea, I contacted the Nintendo Company and received its gracious permission to use the cards as I describe here. I also used my state mathematics standards to formulate activities using the Pokemon cards. I was surprised by how easy it was to create activities that would help my students meet the state standards. I began to see patterns in the cards and how they are used. For instance, on one card the students divide in half the number of HPs (hit points) that the other card has and round the result to the next ten. My lessons include having students graph the different character types with box-and-whisker plots to create the best deck.

My principal was very receptive to the plan. He confessed that "school math" had been difficult for him and that mathematics became real only when his dad introduced him to baseball cards. Figuring batting averages and other statistics made mathematics relevant to him. Skeptical parents who visited my classroom were quickly won over, and I have received e-mails from them expressing congratulations on finally using mathematics to captivate their children's interest.

We have been actively studying "Pokemon math" this quarter, and the students are completely engaged. I am using mathematics to help them improve something that they desperately want to do already. They are on the edge of their seats, watching the clock for mathematics time to arrive each day and sitting breathlessly while I show them how to use mathematics to understand their cards. If only I had come up with a similar activity sooner!

Mike Apodaca

Hesperia, CA 92345

To receive by e-mail copies of "Pokemon math" lessons in the Microsoft Word for Windows format, e-mail Apodaca at MrDaca@aol.com.-Ed.

Watch for these journals-related sessions at the NCTM's 78th Annual Meeting in Chicago:

* Make TCM Come Alive in Your Classroom--Friday, 14 April 2000, 12:00 Noon-1:00 P.M. at the Navy Pier, Room 307.

This interactive session is for grades 2-5 teachers who are looking for examples and suggestions for using TCM as a resource in their classrooms. Topics will include problem solving, reasoning, communication, investigations, and questioning techniques that build mathematical power.

* Developing Skills as a Referee for NCTM Journals-Saturday, 15 April 2000, 9:00-10:00 A.M. at the Sheraton Hotel, Room Michigan A.

Evaluating manuscripts for TCM can be a professionally rewarding experience. This interactive session is intended for anyone interested in becoming a referee, as well as for experienced referees. Learn about the role of referees, evaluate a manuscript, and join in the discussion.

* Writing for NCTM Journals: Tips and Discussion with Editorial Panel Members--Saturday, 15 April 2000, 12:00 Noon-1:00 P.M. at the Navy Pier, Room 305.

Whether you are simply wondering how to write for TCM or have a specific idea for a manuscript, attend this interactive session and get an overview of how to prepare an article, as well as specific advice from members of the Editorial Panel.

Thanks!

The following NCTM members, who were selected randomly from the readers of the journal, were generous enough to complete an extensive evaluation of the September 1999 issue of TCM. The comments of these professionals will help in the continual improvement of the journal.

Sandra Anderson, Bloomington, Michigan

Janet Caldwell, Wallingford, Pennsylvania

Christine Crowther, Ogden, Utah

Beth Gaines, Sikeston, Missouri

Marsha Grant, Campbellsville, Kentucky

Virginia Horak, Arlington, Virginia

Judy Ihrig, Alexandria, Kentucky

DeLois S. Linder, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Amy McDuffle, Richland, Washington

Carol Midgett, Southport, North Carolina

Katy Ping, Cincinnati, Ohio

Congratulations to DeLois Linder, who won the drawing for a \$50 NCTM gift certificate. Thank you to all for your participation.
COPYRIGHT 2000 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc.
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