Math Madness: Coloring, Reasoning, and Celebrating

  • Math Madness: Coloring, Reasoning, and Celebrating

    Nicholas H. Wasserman
    Looking for a way to influence elementary school culture about mathematics prompted this author’s use of graph-coloring problems in an activity with second graders.
    As a parent, I stepped into my child’s class on a Friday morning to a room buzzing with activity. Parents walked around the room, coffee and bagel in hand, reading stories that their child (and others) had drafted, revised, written, and illustrated. Students eagerly shared their stories and drawings, cherishing the comments and praise from their parents (and others). Publishing parties were honored events—a celebration of the hard work that these young authors had put into their stories, endlessly adding details, correcting spelling, changing punctuation, and coloring pictures. The children obviously loved their stories, as did parents. The school’s culture embraced and celebrated reading and writing—they used the illustrious Teachers College Reading and Writing Project curriculum—and the attitudes extended to students. Writing was a favorite subject, and “reaching a higher reading level” filled the hallways as students’ goals for the year. All of this was great. The problem was the lack of anything remotely comparable in mathematics.
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