So. I have this friend. Her name is Elsie. She assists me in our homeschool co-op on Fridays when I teach about Japan to eight delightful girls first period. She is a fabulous assistant. Then, I assist her when she teaches about Ancient Greece to eight delightful girls third period. She is a fabulous teacher.
What does Elsie do during second period? you ask. Answer: She teaches Jedi Math. Fabulously, of course. And during lunch, she feeds ideas into my brain, where they spin around, breed, multiply, and pop out at home. The result is more exciting than a ride on the Millennium Falcon as it makes the jump into hyperspace. Especially since the Math Facts Drill Hating Force is strong around here.
For example ...
1. Luke, Han and Leia Vs. the Trash Compactor. Remember that scene in Star Wars (Episode 4) where those three heroes are stuck in the trash compactor, desperately trying to radio C3PO for help before they're smunched to death? Well, we use multiplication flashcards, and we're trying to get through the whole deck before we get flattened. I make the last card the "magic code," and when my young Jedi solves it, he's cracked the code and stops the compactor JUST IN TIME. Whew!
2. Anakin's Pod Race. Again, the flash cards (which we made as an art project). This time, he's Anakin in his pod racer from Episode 1. We use the stopwatch function on my iPod, and his previous time -- the time to beat -- is Sebulba, Anakin's main competitor in the pod race. If he finishes faster, Anakin wins. If the stopwatch finishes faster (hasn't happened yet), Sebulba wins. Go Anakin!
3. Find R2D2. Using the "line drawings" function in Google Images, I found simple images of R2D2 and C3PO, who go together like bread and butter, Gilbert and Sullivan, me and 70% dark chocolate. I printed about thirty copies of each, laminated them, and cut them out. Using dry-erase or wet-erase markers, I write the multiplication (or for Eliza, addition) facts on all the C3PO's, and all the answers on the R2D2's. We scatter them on the floor. Young Mathwalker works to joyfully reunite the matches. Awww ...
4. Word Problems. With a cursory knowledge of the Star Wars Universe, or a little help from a book like Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary - The Ultimate Guide to Characters and Creatures from the Entire Star Wars Saga, one can come up with any number of zany word problems. Here are a few from this morning. Help yourself.
1. Anakin is checking the fuel situation on his pod racer before the big race. His fuel gauge shows that his tank is three fifths (3/5) full of fuel. Meanwhile, his chief competitor's tank is seven tenths (7/10) full. Whose pod racer is more likely to finish the race before running out of fuel -- Anakin or Sebulba?
2. Queen Amidala uses white nail polish as a tradition from her native village. This morning she painted half of her nails before being interrupted by a messenger from the Senate. How many fingernails does she still need to paint?
3. Jedi Master Qui-Gong Jinn has been training his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to use his light saber. Today they practiced for one hour. Yesterday they practiced for an hour and a half. How many minutes in total have they practiced this week? If they're aiming for 300 minutes by the end of the week, how many hours and minutes do they still need to practice?
My nine year old is the only one who does much formal math around here, and he happens to be somewhat obsessed with the ways of the Force. So, how's he feeling about math practice these days?
Much improved, his attitude is.