Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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17/11/13: a dance in honour of the number 12!

Golly, it's fun working with primary school teachers!  On the course in Kilifi, Coastal Kenya, last week, we engaged in geometric art, made clocks, went outside the classroom to consider maths trails, did jigsaw puzzles, did various activities with timestables and shapes using people alone - and danced in honour of the number 12.

I can't now remember where I got this idea, what is needed is 12 people and some barn dance type music.  The dance starts with all 12 people linking hands, 8 steps forward 8 steps backwards.  Then the group separates to 2 lots of 6 people - 8 steps forward 8 steps backwards.  Then 4 lots of 3 people, people by themselves, 6 lots of 2 people, 3 lots of 4 people and finally 1 group of 12 people again, each time doing 8 steps forward and 8 steps backwards.  So, what have we learnt?  That 12 is 1 lot of 12, 2 lots of 6, 4 lots of 3, 12 lots of 1, 6 lots of 2, 3 lots of 4 and 1 lot of 12 again.  Hurrah for the number 12!

Geometric art involves drawing pictures using geometric shapes as building blocks.  Here are some examples:

Very pleased that participants liked the Gelosia method of multiplication, easily found with Google if you're interested.  And an interesting conundrum to think through - very much the theme of the week was making connections, not least with 'real life'.  In measurement particularly, there is a tension between doing this and keeping things simple.  So, in the Kenyan curriculum, children in standards 1 to 3 (age 6 to 9 approximately) only use metres, not centimetres, as a unit for length.  Whilst this keeps things simple, it also cuts out a good few classroom activities one might do in measuring.  I'm now curious to ask primary maths specialists I know about this, quite an interesting problem to engage with.

We met at Kilifi Craft Training Centre quite close to the centre of town.  A great location and wonderful to see training in motor mechanics, carpentry and metal work going on alongside.  Staff there most hospitable, thanks particularly to the director, Tinga.  Have to say, jolly good for me to be teaching in a room with neither air conditioning nor fans, but instead with gaps in the brickwork:

A breeze came through, although I ended up breaking my normal rule of just one shower per day, don't think it's good for skin to have more than that, but in difference to other people around me...  Of course, the gaps mean that noise comes straight through, at one stage there was a 'tuk tuk' (Kenyan equivalent of a bijaji) straining up a slight incline, a number of birds merrily singing in the rafters, singing coming from the next door class on early years, and then mobile phones ringing in our own room.  Needless to say I dealt with this with my normal level of serenity and composure....

Several PowerPoints and other resources written, happy to share them on my 'resources' page on request.  All in all, a great week, I certainly enjoyed it, and look forward to returning to Kilifi in due course.  My thanks to colleagues on the 'Strengthening Education Systems in East Africa' project and its funders, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and Canada for making the whole thing possible, I hope to keep in touch with some of the participants, it will be interesting to hear how they get on back in their own classrooms.

Just one other thing: I've sent out assorted emails about the Joshua Ngombo Appeal , very much hope that you can support this.  Any help publicising the appeal gratefuly received, do leave a message on the appeal page.  Updates coming soon!

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