Sunday, February 22, 2015

Yoga and maths. One and the same?

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I had a rather unusual maths lesson today. Keeping in mind that I have been focussing on well being for my students and I in various capacities, I thought working in some yoga in a maths lesson seemed like a really good idea. Also, working in a cross curricular team with the Health and Physical Education department, it seemed like a unique opportunity for students to physically experience concepts, rather than just talk about them, or worse, just be told about them.

  1. Bryce my co-teacher in this module started with a theory introduction about yoga. Building on the ideas of aggression versus competition from the previous week, he explained how western culture has influenced yoga particularly in respect to competition. We also talked briefly about how yoga had been sexualised. With the Health and Physical Education focus on social and cultural factors, there was lots to talk about. West vs. East type stuff!
  2. We then went on to about half an hour of yoga. Really basic stuff but finishing off with five minutes of careful breathing exercises. At the beginning, students were told that the idea was to focus on yourself, not on anything or anyone else. The goal was to clear your mind completely, or if you struggled with this, to only focus on your breathing. 
  3. Students answered some reflection questions about doing yoga. For example, what does yoga look like, feel like, sound like? Which Hobsonville habits are in use when doing yoga? Purposeful fit really well here because of the importance of focussing your thoughts, breathing and movement. 
  4. We returned to class where I read students an extract from Finding Zero: A Mathematician's Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers.
    "Shunya means zero in our language. But it also relates to the Buddhist philosophical concept of the void, which is called Shunyata. You see, zero, the number, and the Buddhist emptiness - the goal of mediation and an ideal striven for on the road to Nirvana, or enlightenment - are one and the same. Emptiness is a deep philosophical concept, and from it we get zero." As part of exploring the idea of numbers representing things, we also took a moment to discuss the question, "Are numbers real?". This was fascinating and lead to a remarkably heated debate. 
  5. From this, we then explored the idea of zero and it's importance in more depth. Students could choose one of two questions to work on. The second is a problem from NRICH maths.  Through this, students were able to begin making sense of place value. They also developed a really clear understanding of the idea that our numbers are only a symbol, and these symbols are representations. Zero is representation of nothing, or the clear mind we were all attempting to have earlier in the lesson. At the same time, five could be represented in a number of ways. I feel like this was great preparation for the algebra concepts later this term as in the past, I have often seen students struggle to wrap their heads around why we introduce letters. I hope that seeing beyond the symbol might be useful.
  6. Finally we finished the lesson Steve Mouldey style, with a "what if" question. What if zero was never invented? Although some students could still only grasp at some basic ideas, it was really exciting to have a student ask whether we would have negative numbers without zero. 
Choice of questions students had to work on. 

It's peculiar to think that maths has been influenced so heavily be eastern religion, philosophy and religion, yet more often than not, we have separated the emotional, people aspects from maths entirely. Instead, it is often presented in a rather sterile way. The ideas that we encounter on a daily basis as far more connected than we realise at first glance. It really made me wonder, how much of the 'content' that is so valued in schools, has actually lost all its romance because we have stripped it from its context?

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