The Amazing Race
#EDUC454E100 – Week 8 – June 28, 2018
A very clever name to this week’s group facilitation learning activity. The Amazing Race. We were all wooed by the lollipops. A group of 4 students started off the activity by offering each of us a lollipop and explaining the rules of the game. We were then divided into groups of 4 and asked to pick a team name. I was on Team We’re Not Creative. We then participated in several team activities: (1) Grab 2 different coloured wiffle balls BLINDFOLDED; (2) spin around a baseball bat and run; and (3) do a math problem about circles or take 5 photos. In hindsight, these all pretty dangerous activities. I did fall on my knee and rolled on the ground soon after the baseball bat spin.
I love how were were all willing to participate. We did not question the rules nor did we know what we were playing for. What we did know was, the lollipops were important. I was not sure if I should eat one or not. I was confused but played along. I was enjoying myself and I aced the circumference/diameter math problem. Our estimated answer turned out to be a nice rounded answer of d = 14.0 m. I was personally impressed. What I was not impressed about was having to be TURNED AROUND and have to do part 2 of station 3. It set us behind… but this setback played a role. We would soon find out why.
No pics of the three preliminary activities, however the picture below depicts the next stage of the game. There was definitely an “inner group” and an “outer group.” The initial teams were now non-existent and now we were divided into two larger teams. As a member of the “outer group,” I spent most of my time observing and wondering what was going on. Other members of my group were a little more activated and more willing to ask members of the “inner group” of what they had wanted and offered their lollipops with hopes of getting some answers. At first the “inner group” was silent, but as time went on they were more verbal but vague. I learned that 2 of my students spoke American Sign Language: one from the “inner group” and one from the “outer group.”
As a member of the “outer group,” our mission was to get INTO the circle. Look at them… there was NO WAY we were going to get in… and I felt that we didn’t have enough information to solve the problem. We did regroup a few times to strategize. I had the exact opposite response of TAKING their lollipops (later learning that their objective was to NOT let us in and accrue as many lollipops, particularly the orange ones). We had opposing objectives and would say that the “inner group” were achieving their goals. The “outer group” were failing because we were not inside the circle and losing lollipops.
Thank goodness, the group facilitators ended the game (it was getting frustrating) and we regrouped at first as “inner group” and “outer group.” Then we re-grouped as 50/50. This was eye opening. The facilitator in each sub-group asked members from the “inner” and the “outer” group to share what we understood and attempting to do. As mentioned, the “inner group” was trying to keep people out and collect lollipops. The “outer group” was trying to find a way in the circle and some of us had to go in as pairs, triplets, or as singles. We could use the lollipops but did not know how. We were then asked to reflect on how we felt. I remembered someone saying during the last activity, “what happened to the Amazing Race?” It wasn’t fun. Then we were asked to think about COLONIALISM.
Mind blown. What an amazing close to the Amazing Race… hence the clever title. I internalized the feelings of being marginalized, playing a game without knowing all of the rules, and losing. It was like solving a math problem without enough information, such that we are forced to hypothesize some possible solutions, but none of them worked. I was also stunned by the idea of competition and the mindset it instills on each of us. All I could think of with competition was SCARCITY. We were all willing to play without knowing how to win or lose. We were so trusting. As it turned out, the teams from the start of the game who placed a clear first and second were from the “inner group” and the clear losers were from the “outer group.” Each lollipop colour had a point value. This was calculated at the end of the activity. What a complex learning activity… it reminds me of the “brown eyes/blue eyes” experiment done 50 years ago to Grade 3 students.
After the break, 2 other students lead us though a warm-up activity OUTDOORS after our break. Yes, we continue learning outside. We were doing relays and math problems related to environmentally conscious decision making. I liked that there was a connection to space and real life math problems that Grade 8 students can solve and consider. What caught my attention was the “best buy” concept. In Math 8, “best buy” means the cheapest or cost efficient. But, the math questions posed got students to reconsider what was more important… cost efficiency or carbon footprint. What we traditionally consider as “best buy” is changing and getting students to use, develop, and demonstrate their core competencies using critical/creative thinking, communication, and social justice and responsibility, students can DEFEND which is the “best buy” and explain why.
I love the next two speakers… and we’re back inside to summarize this week’s reading. 2 more students did an excellent job summarizing the article on math efficacy and math self-beliefs… by saying that the article could be reduced from 26 pages to 2 and that if you don’t feel good about math then you won’t do math. Although this seems obvious with respect to any learning, I was hoping that it was obvious to us as teachers that our math efficacy influences how students learn math even though they may or may not be teaching math when they enter the teaching profession. I am hoping that my students see that Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education is present and play a role in the curricular areas they are trained to teach. Math is DESCRIPTIVE.
One student opted to extend her presentation by sharing her math experience as a high school student. Another student opted to read us a small children’s book (in French and English) about a penguin who believed that he could fly. Both presentations were compelling and creative such that I started to engage with the class about their math experiences and perceived math efficacy such that we did not get to the discussion questions posed and while another student facilitated the closing activity (which is postponed for next week). My students had a lot to say. Some students would admit that they do not have a problem with math (which is great!!!), but others had traumatizing stories that they have (or hope to) overcome. One student said that she taught Math 8 during her practicum and loved it. The experience boosted her confidence. Her attitude was, if I don’t know it, we’ll figure it out... an awesome demonstration of vulnerability. That’s a part of it. I was surprised how similar some stories were from each other and I hope by the end of the course that their math self-beliefs will transform.
Weekly Journal Questions
You may or may not teach math when you enter the teaching profession. Regardless of job assignment, how does your mathematics self-beliefs influence how your students learn math? Or does it?
Given what you have learned and experienced so far in EDUC454, how does mathematics (or quantitative approaches) fit into your subject specialty (or grade level)? How does environmental education?