Teaching

The theme of transformation appears in the art and literature of numerous cultures. The image on the home page of this website is a painted frieze tile from Iran (1270-80) and is in the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It depicts the myth of the phoenix taking flight after it is reborn from the ashes of its former self. Although the myth has its origin in ancient Egypt, its counterparts appear in Persian, Mexican, Native American and early Christian cultures as well. The image can be likened to the process of educaton, in that both teacher and student can experience a regeneration of the mind and spirit. A teacher must see herself as both a guide to and fellow learner with her students. Learning can then become a collaboration amongst all individuals present in a classroom. Individual differences in cognition, interests and abilities are of particular interest to me as an educator. Instruction must be geared towards the individual, so I am acquiring a mix of methodolgies as I pursue graduate studies.

Curriculum should be an authentic representation of the diverse culture in which we live, with world history and literature taught at the elementary school level. The subject areas should be integrated and taught thematically. Multicultural perspectives can be integrated into the study of mathematics. From an historical perspective, students should understand the Hindu-Arabic origins of the numerical system used throughout most of the world. It has been in use since 400 BCE in India, and through trade became known in Persian and Arabic countries in the medieval period. It was not until the twelfth century A.D. that its use began in Europe. Counting devices, such as the abacus, puzzles and games can all be used as means of teaching mathematical principles. The tangram, which is a puzzle from from ancient China, can be used to teach children about geometry. Since its original use was for storytelling, it can be incorporated into reading and language arts. A book such as Grandfather Tang's Story by Ann Trompert invites children to continue both the story and the cultural tradition.

In an era of high stakes testing when art programs are jettisoned from the curriculum, educators need to provide children with creative pursuits within the subject areas. Art can be successfully incorporated into the curriculum, and used as a teaching tool in language arts, history, science and math. Children live in a visual culture, and need to acquire visual literacy skills. In math, design problems can be solved through the use of pentiminoes, pattern blocks and drawing. Through such activities, children learn geometry, and increase their spatial ability. Please see my math lesson plan for teaching basic design principles in Islalmic art. The lesson incorporates world history, art history, and geometry. The video clip shows how tesselations can be taught using decorated tiles. The tiles can later be used to decorate the wall in a special area of the classroom.

Mathematics taught with hands-on manipulatives helps children understand math from a conceptual point of view. As soon as students have grasped these concepts however, they need to be taught traditional methods as well. Performances on standardized tests are dependent on their aibility to solve algorithms and word problems efficiently. Some of the websites that provide students with opportunities to hone their mathematics skills are listed on the Links page.

 

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