Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Snow White Was So Forgetful!

Seriously, Snow White Was SO Forgetful!: The Story of Snow White as Told by the Dwarves (The Other Side of the Story) is a retelling of the Snow White story from the dwarves' perspective. This story is different from the other series of the Other Side of the Story books in a couple of ways. First this book only has the alternate fairy tale, it doesn't include the original story for students to compare and contrast. Secondly, the narrator of the story is a friend, not someone who was in conflict with the character as is generally the case in most of the Other tales. The tales are generally written to give you the evil character's perspective on what happened. In this case that presents a little bit of a weakness for the story. The dwarves had no conflict with Snow White. They just found her forgetful and that created problems for her.

In order to get around the issue of not telling the story from the Evil Queen's perspective or for that matter the Prince's story which would also might provided more material for an alternate fairy tale, the author focuses on making Snow White into a hopeless figure who can't get out of her own way. To insure nobody assumes this is based on sexism, the Prince is equally forgetful and thus a match made.

On the plus side, this version strays from the Disney version back to the traditional Grimm's tale with the multiple visits from the Evil Queen attempting to kill Snow White. It also leaves out true love's kiss for the version where the apple is displaced when the coffin is dropped.

I think the author was shooting for the humor of some of the earlier series, but failed. Instead this seemed like a petty attack on Snow White.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Math at the Art Museum

I saw a listing for Math at the Art Museum and wanted to read it because I've always been interested in how art, music, and gym can help students who love those subjects, but are weak in others build skills in new ways.

This book begins that premise and actually would make for an interesting discussion about how more subject areas could work together with shared vocabulary, activities, and curriculum planning to help students recognize that math and science are accessible in areas they often never consider.

In this book two children are headed off with their parents to the Art Museum to visit a special exhibition titled, "Discover Math in Art." The family passes through the exhibits and the mathematical vocabulary is highlighted. The paintings through out the book are identified and the painter credited.

One of my favorites was Praying Mother and Son Rock Formation by Kim Jae-hong used to demonstrate symmetry, because this reminded me of my trip to see the art teacher when I needed help with this lesson plan. While the emphasis on symmetry was significant in the curriculum, the materials I had available to me, were rather limited for the age group I was teaching. It seemed this would be a logical choice for demonstrating a math concept in art class so we discussed my curriculum goals and the types of projects she would consider doing with the kids to meet those goals. As an artist, her appreciation for symmetry was far deeper than mine and she was able to find ways to explore it that I never would have considered. I can only say my students were blessed to have her additional instruction on the topic.

This book is very introductory, but it is an important one that I hope arrives at a few faculty meetings along with being used by parents and children to explore math and art. I do believe students do better when we help them build from strengths. For kids who love art, music, and gym being able to see math and science in those subjects makes science and math less intimidating. It doesn't mean we turn every lesson into a math lesson, but there are plenty of ways to embed vocabulary and concepts into a lesson without it losing it's original purpose.

It does require training and planning. Technical high schools in this area have already begun this transformation of working to embed more traditional learning curriculum into the student's shop periods. It takes training, but it is reflected in the students going from failing standardized tests to sometimes beating their classmates in traditional classrooms who spend more time focused solely on curriculum. Students are learning curriculum through trades and technical skills that interest them. In the same way students can and should learn skills they need in art, music, and gym. It doesn't take away from the time they spend in those classrooms, it just deepens the learning experience. Having teachers use math vocabulary when discussing art, music, and gym topics requires training, but it can lessen anxiety in kids who normally fear a math problem, but excel at figuring out the geometry required in a football play.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Edgar Allan Poe's Pie

I had to put Edgar Allan Poe's Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poemswhen it appeared on the new book list at our library. The idea of combining poetry and math was such a great idea that I had to see if the promise met the reality. I can say I was pleased with the outcome.

The author has converted 14 poems into math rhymes. The poets include Edgar Allan Poe, Edward Lear, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Lewis Carroll, Hilaire Belloc, Robert Frost, Eleanor Farjeon, A.A. Milne, William Carlos, Langston Hughes, Ogden Nash, John Ciardi, and Shel Silverstein. The math is embedded into the poems creatively. Problems include whole number functions, fractions, measurement, money, decimals, perimeter, percentages and order of operations. I'm sure I've left out something, but the problems cover a range of topics. The answers are all provided at the bottom of the page. Just to be clear the poems have all been rewritten. You will find the frame of the Raven, but not the Raven. That is why I suggest doing both together.

This would be a great way to combine poetry and math studies. Groups could be given a copy of the original poem and the math poem to compare, then come back and share with the group what they learned about the poem assigned. I was surprised at how well the author worked around the original structure of the poem to recreate new poems to meet the math challenge. Sometimes author's mean well in trying to use literature to engage kids in math, but it comes off forced. I was impressed at the creativity of these poems and the math embedded in them.

That being said, I do think it would be wise to make sure the students are exposed to the original material. It actually adds to the enjoyment of the joke if you realize it is a spoof of the original.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hoodis the third story in Liesl Shurtliff's True Fairy Tale series.

This tale takes a slightly different turn from the earlier books in the series, which completely reexamine the characters Rumpelstiltskin in Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin and Jack in Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk giving us entertaining new stories.

We have already met Red Riding Hood in previous adventures and in this novel she teams up with Goldie. There are two twists in this story, but not enough to make it as engaging as the previous two novels. Red and her Grandmother are witches, but Red is struggling to embrace her powers and has almost killed her grandmother trying to adapt. That is not in the original tale. The second is that the wolf and Red are friends, he risks his life to save hers. Again this moves it away from the original, but not enough to make it interesting. These just aren't as the same kinds of bold changes made in the the previous novels that made them quick reads.

The crisis that moves the plot is Red's Grandmother is dying. Not able to face losing her, Red finally is compelled to consider magic as a solution to keeping her grandmother alive. However, as she and Goldie set out to find something to save her Grandmother she finds that kind of magic always has a hidden cost. The outcome is rarely what one hopes for and generally provides less than ideal results.

Along the path she meets people who help her come to terms the reality that her quest is not one that will benefit her Grandmother. A turning point comes when she discovers what the cost was for Beauty when she sought to stay young forever. On her return from that encounter she meets someone that has turned even darker pursuing eternal life and is only saved when she can fully embrace her own magic and stop fearing death.

This is an interesting tale, but not quite up to the standards set in the first two novels of the series. There are so many possibilities for an alternate story of Red's life. This one seemed a bit lacking.