Math and Creativity! Really? That’s how many people would react, mostly due to the kind of experience they have had with Math education.
In my opinion, doing Mathematics is an immensely creative activity for children, where you can imagine, build hypothesis, prove and disprove things. You can feel the joy of understanding, making meaning and gaining insights, and all in your own unique ways.
The past week, we had the following problem as an ‘End of week puzzle’ in the Math Club. Before you read further, I would suggest you to take a moment think of this problem as if you were looking at it the first time. List down different ideas which come to your mind.
Although this might not capture all aspects of what doing Math really means, here are some ways in which different children thought about this.
Vinaya represented the 10 people by dots and connected them with lines and counted the total number of connections.
Adithya and Prahlad thought about it differently: The 1st person shakes hand with 9 other people. The 2nd one, having already shook the 1st person’s hand shakes hands with 8 other people. Going further, the 3rd person shakes hands with 7 people……and so on. We can thus get the total number of handshakes.
Kartikey had yet another way to think about this: We have a total of 10 people. Let’s say each person were to take turn and shake hands with all others (which is 9 people), without worrying about whether they had already shook hands with someone. So, we would have 10 x 9 = 90 handshakes. In this way, since everyone would have shaken hands twice, we can divide 90 by 2, to get the real number of handshakes.
So, we had the same problem but completely different ways to think about it. And I am sure there are tens of other ways in which you could think about this.
If you have more ideas, share in the comments below.
So, let’s not make Math a subject where you apply procedures and formulas to arrive at a particular answer. Let it be an adventure, full of discoveries to be made. Let it be about ideas and creativity. The thrill is not the final answer, it’s in appreciating the ideas, the different thought processes and the insights you gain along the process.
We can place trust in children and give them the space to struggle, figure out, solve problems and make sense of things.
Let children not be robbed off of the opportunity to creatively struggle and experience the beauty of Mathematical Thinking.
This problem was a part of the Math Club, where children (Ages 9-14) meet once a week for a live session with Karan and work on the interesting challenges daily.