Tag Archives: creativity

MaKey MaKey Launch – Professional Development for Teachers

You’ve been asked to create a 1.5 hour ed tech training for teachers.

– Great!

That training will take place on a Friday afternoon, the first week back from winter break.

– Great!

Wait. Why so confident? What can you possibly do to keep teachers engaged and excited to learn about educational technology on the Friday afternoon after break?

MaKey MaKey, of course!

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  1. Introduce staff to the new making resources in the library
  2. Have fun!
  3. Encourage teachers to try something new and get out of their comfort zone.
  4. Spark excitement, enthusiasm and creativity

Training Roll Out

      • Mark Picketts, our Director of Technology and Innovation, gave an introduction to MaKey MaKey, including a short video of various MaKey Makey projects:

    • We asked teachers to self select into small groups, and sit together at a table that included:
      • A laptop
      • A MaKey MaKey
      • Various materials, such as play dough, bananas, tin foil, cardboard, markers, etc…
    • Each group was asked to read through the quick start guide, and demo the bongos or piano software (found in the Try Out of Software section of the page.)


Mountain Lake: A Good Project Indeed

Written by Rose Helm, Middle School Division Head. Originally posted on her blog, At the Helm (password protected).

Last month, I attended a conference held at Lick-Wilmerding High School put on by Project Zero, an education research group out of Harvard University, who describes their research as “investigations into the nature of intelligence, understanding, thinking, creativity, ethics, and other essential aspects of human learning.” In one of the sessions at the conference, I learned about a specific arm of their research spearheaded by Howard Gardner and other intellectual heavyweights, known as “The Good Project.” The Good Project explores the cross section of ethics, excellence, and engagement that combines for what the group calls, good work or “work that is excellent in quality, socially responsible, and meaningful to its practitioners.”

In the group’s research, they discovered that younger people who tended to compromise their core values or integrity in the pursuit of excellence did not see themselves as someone who possessed the ability to challenge the status quo or effect meaningful change. Through reading the case studies from the Good Project’s research, it struck me that these young people who had made choices that compromised their integrity lacked a sense of agency.

Hamlin’s mission statement audaciously states that we aim to inspire our girls to become innovators and leaders. In order to become extraordinary innovators or leaders, Hamlin girls need to have a belief that they have the capacity to act independently and to make their own free choices; they need to possess a sense of agency that is grounded in ethical decision-making, or integrity.

image1 copyA few weeks ago, I visited one of Rachel Davis’s sixth grade science classes and was struck by how the work they are doing in conjunction with the Presidio Trust is providing them with a platform to be innovators and leaders in an ethical decision-making context and fostering in them a sense of agency. For the past several years, the sixth grade has partnered with the Presidio Trust to study the water quality in Mountain Lake; the data collected by our students is actually the Presidio’s key source of information for understanding the state of the water.

Inspired by the conversations in their science classes, two girls in the sixth grade, Ava L. and Mikayla W., attended an open meeting about the problem of San Francisco residents releasing non-native species, such as carp, goldfish, and turtles into the lake. The Presidio Trust’s proposal is to eliminate a non-native species of fish from the lake using a chemical toxin that specifically targets the invasive, non-native species. The girls reported back to the class, and the class read and responded to an article published on SFGate. Scientist Jason Lisenby was so taken by the girls’ passionate interest in this situation that he came to Hamlin to speak directly with the girls Friday, October 24. As a result of his visit, many girls have already taken action by signing the pledge to stop releasing non-native species in the lake.


That the girls have a voice in this ethical dilemma – poison non-native fish to clear the lake of toxic algae and restore it to a healthy state – is powerful in its own right. But what is perhaps more powerful is to see how their sense of agency in this context increases the engagement of all the students. When I asked the girls about how they felt about doing this work, many remarked about feeling good about doing something for their local community or laying the groundwork for future Hamlin classes that will continue the partnership with the Presidio. The common thread among all their comments was that they saw themselves as making an impact; they saw themselves as leaders and innovators.

In the words of sixth grader Laurel F., Hamlin girls “are participating in, like, a scientific revolution.”

Read more about Howard Gardner and The Good Project.

First Comes Number Sense by Gillis Kallem

number-icon-setAt Hamlin, we want to cultivate a rich math experience, which includes a vibrant mathematical adventure into the world of numbers and reasoning, problem solving, and creativity, as well as real-life applications. At the foundation of this important work is number sense. In its most general definition, number sense is the ability to intuitively work with numbers. It reflects an understanding of numbers, their magnitude, and relationships. As educators, we expand the meaning of number sense to include a well-organized concept of numbers that allows a person to solve mathematical problems accurately and efficiently in a variety of ways that are not bound by traditional algorithms. (Bobis 1996)

Number sense involves the understanding that numbers are flexible. For example, a number is malleable like a ball of clay. You can change its shape – make it long and skinny, or short and fat—or you can break it apart into smaller pieces and in the end roll it back to its original ball. The same is true for any number. Take 28, it can be seen as 2 groups of 14, 4 groups of 7, or as 20 + 8 or 10+18 or almost 30. Take your pick. Having this ability to see 28 or any number in its many forms allows the user to think freely and creatively when asked to solve problems involving operations with numbers.

When we are presented with a problem such as 131 – 28 in which we might be tempted to write it out in the standard algorithm, then regroup/borrow/cross out numbers and so on, we can instead think about the many forms that any number can take and find one that makes sense for solving this problem in our heads:

Think of 28 as 20 + 1 + 7.
We can first think: 131 – 20 = 111
Then, 111 – 1 = 110,
Finally, 110 – 7 = 103.
In this method, we break apart the subtrahend.

Or we can think that 28 is almost 30 by adding 2 more.
We can change the problem: 131 – 30 = 101
Then we add back 2:101 + 2 = 103.
In this method, we adjust the subtrahend to make a friendly number or a round number, and then add back what we added to the subtrahend.

Or we can play even further!
Change both numbers by adding 2 to each.
Thus, 131- 28 becomes 133 – 30 = 103.
In this method, we adjust both sides, keeping the distance the same but making the numbers easier to work with. This method is known as constant distance.

What about 28 x 5? How would we efficiently and accurately solve this mentally?
One way might be to think of 28 as 20 + 8
Then, 20 x 5 = 100 and 8 x 5 = 40
Combine, 100 + 40 = 140.
This makes use of the distributive property of multiplication.

Another way might be to think of 28 as 30.
Then, 30 x 5 = 150.
Now, subtract two groups of 5: 150 – 10 = 140.
Again, this is using a friendly number and then adjusting afterwards.

Or you could think of the problem in an entirely different way!
Turn 28 x 5 into 14 x 10 = 140.
This is a clever method called doubling and halving.
Various classroom activities and lessons in Grades K-5 at Hamlin support the development of number sense and flexible thinking.  Additionally, our assessments measure the girls’ learning of robust number sense. Building computational fluency is a core skill that fluid and flexible number sense girds for long-term success in mathematics.

In my next Curriculum Connection, I will highlight the specific classroom practice of Number Talks/Number Strings as it relates to number sense.

Gillis Kallem
K-5 Mathematics Specialist