For part of my service-learning credit, I was given the opportunity to try out some of Amanda Serenevy's amazing math challenges with the children I nanny for. Basically it was a wonderful/fun activity to teach addition and subtraction. I babysit for an 8-year old boy, a 5-year old girl, and a 2-year old boy, and all three have been diagnosed with pediatric bipolar disorder. While these are without question the brightest, most creative, and most intriguing kids I have ever worked with, homework and schoolwork is always a serious issue for the older two. The youngest is slightly developmentally delayed, so going into Amanda's activity, I knew he wasn't ready to grasp the concept, but there was no doubt that he would want to participate with his brother and sister.
Per Amanda's direction, I was to tape several sheets of paper to the floor, each one with a number on it. Then I taped them to the floor in the proper, number line order. Then I would tell the kids to start on 0, and say, for example, "2"-which would prompt them to go stand on the number 2, and continue, "+4=", and the kids would walk 4 spaces forward, and look at the number on the sheet they were standing on, and yell out the answer. I then introduced subtraction and also incorporated negative numbers, which even the 8-year old hadn't confronted in school yet. I was nervous to see how they'd do, based on our usual experience with academically-based material, and the attention it demands. But the kids absolutely loved this!! We did it for about 35 minutes. And for each correct answer they got, I gave them an M&M. So the activity itself was intrinsically reinforcing, and they loved being able to move around, and the M&M's provided an added form of motivation. They started building mazes with the numbers, and both the 5-year old and the 8-year old gained proficiency in addition, subtraction, AND negative numbers!! It was so amazing! While the 2-year old didn't understand the concept, he stayed active the entire time, and jumped around on the numbers, and loved the treats, too!
Thank you, thank you, thank you to Amanda! It was so fantastic to see kids who typically struggle so much genuinely love an academically-based activity as much as they did this. If you babysit, you should totally try this!!
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