Friday, March 23, 2007

Curses and Verses

We have spent this week scoring the NYS Math assessments and I look forward to another weekend of scoring DVDs so that we can complete the scoring next week. Now - I have to admit that this is one of my least favorite times of the year. First of all, I am terrible at math. I don't balance my checkbook and know that I am horribly ill-prepared for the retirement that awaits me in the year 2031. (At least I know that number!) Second, while I love a challenge, understanding why some things are mathematically correct is one that I wouldn't mind skipping. Fortunately, I have a colleague who is just passionate about it, so I only have to keep the peace at scoring. Finally, there is no creatively in math (see my second reason!). Don't get me wrong - the students are very creative in how they approach some problems, but generally the answer is very black and white. So unlike writing!!

Following closely on the heels of math is science. I appreciate folks whose minds can work in ways that do these subjects justice. Mine is just not one of them - and the big, fat F that haunts my colleage transcipt in Organic Chemisty is the proof!! (Hey - at least I tried! And bless that tutor who tried as well!)

However, I took GREAT delight in the two books I recently purchsed that focus on these subjects. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they are by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (Stinky Cheese Man, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and of course my favorite, Squids Will be Squids). The first, Math Curse, actually reminds me a bit of what happens to my brain during regional scoring: "You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem." Those words from her teacher creates a curse with the narrator in which she cannot escape math - from simple problems like how many quarts are in a gallon to the funniest multiple choice question on fractions I have yet to see ("What is another way to say 1/2 of an apple pie? a. 2/6. b. 3/6. c. la moitie d'une tarte aux pommes") this book helps make math relevant, and dare I say it, FUN!!

And of course, since Mr. Newton observes at the end of the book that "You know, you can think of almost everything as a science experiment" it only goes to follow that the Science Verse is equally amusing. In this case, there is poetry to be found in science. From evolution to the water cycle to the scientific method - these are great rhymes to help students remember some tricky parts of science. However, my absolute all-time favorite is "Dino-Sore." this little ditty tells the tale of Dinosaurs - often retold year after year after year. In short a curriculum nightmare:
"It's still a mystery, scientists say,
Why the dinosaur went away.
But I know why they couldn't stay
(And it wasn't meteors).
It was creatures - yes, those teachers -
Who did the work of fifty wars
And bored to death - DINOSAURS."
Mr. Scieszka does a fine job ending the book with his "Observations and Conclusions" in which he honors the great poets and poetry that his work is based upon. All in all - not a bad curse to have!!

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