What brain science teaches us about conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution among kids can be a quite daunting challenge for teachers. Especially in a class where one would find a mix of characters, it is difficult for an argument to die down without the intervention of a teacher. How can you make kids understand the right choices when a vulnerable situation arises? Can brain science teach kids the importance of self-importance? This article is based on a teacher’s experience of making the kids understand the science of the brain.

Ms Ryden’s initial attempt of making kids understand by role-playing the conflicts situation went in vain after she saw the kids unable to follow the right choices during actual conflicts. This led Ms Ryden to adopt two strategies: – to make students understand the neuroscience of anger and to implement self-regulatory power of mindfulness through breathing techniques. She gave her students a complete tutorial on the role of the amygdala and its control on self-control when they are angry. It was quite surprising to note that kids came up with the request to control their “amygdala” after understanding the whole science of the brain during the conflicts.

They welcomed the idea of embracing tools that could calm their brains. Ms. Ryden began teaching them different techniques of taking deep and calming breaths. According to a study, it is found that the act of taking deep breaths sends amygdala a message that everything is OK. This, in turn, leads the amygdala to calm down and other essential functions to take over. This simple explanation of a complex process is an excellent way of imparting great knowledge to kids.

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Using Rubik’s cube to teach math

The concerns about the inability to learn math in a conventional environment have been going rounds for years. A high-school teacher based in Colorado devised a creative instructional method to meet the student’s learning need using –a Rubik’s cube. After learning that students create historical figures and landmarks on Rubik’s cube, he decided to taper Rubik’s Cube efficiency to promote critical thinking and algorithmic problem solving among the kids.

Connecting Rubik’s cube with math

One can make several connections between a Rubik’s cube and Math. Initial learning is that of time and speed. This happens when kids start solving one face of the cube. They are encouraged to calculate the time taken to address one face, and after that, the concept of speed comes in naturally.

Another mathematical concept one can learn from a cube is that of fraction, ratios, and proportional reasoning. The teacher can encourage the student to calculate the fraction of a particular colour against one face. For the older group of students, the Rubik’s cube can introduce the concept of factorials to explain the different combinations of the cube.

Although, what was started as an effort to motivate math learning in kids, Rubik’s cube technique is facilitating efficient learning of other subjects too. The students spend quite some time researching about the information they wish to develop. Thus, the Rubik’s cube learning is found to provide an engaging experience to the students, and the educators can motivate students to seek out challenges.

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Five non-mathematical tips that can improve math learning

While some students find math a fun-filled subject, most of the students think of it as a nightmare. Can math become a subject endearing to everyone? Well, that is possible if you implement the five essential non-mathematical tips mentioned here and make the math learning a fun-filled affair.

  • Proper rapport

A sense of belongingness is vital for students to develop an interest in any learning. Frequent pleasant interactions with the teachers as well as the classmates make it easier for a child to be in their comfort zone too. When students have a great rapport with all others in the class, the challenge given by math will become more fun.

  • The sense of well being

Creating an environment that makes students confident, enough to take risks and push boundaries is essential to facilitate the learning of math.

  • Learn with fun

Allowing students for discovery, tinkering with numbers and shapes, acting out story problems, questionings that stimulate curiosity, and playing math games etc. are some fun activities that should be included in the curriculum. The playfulness with studies will help in easing the anxiety in students and creates a sense of belonging.

  • Being passionate

Passion is contagious. The statement stands true for any situation. A passionate teacher has the power to spread excitement and positivity to all those around them. Love your subject and display the passion to your students too.

  • Self-Efficacy

The timely motivation for teachers is necessary to instil the power of self-efficacy. If they believe they are making an impact, success is sure to follow.

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Integrated learning of history with science

Is it possible to learn a context in history while incorporating science or any other subject to it? Can the design-based thinking and problem based learning help in memorizing an event in history along with the details of science in it? The answer is yes, and the following section justifies the answer.

A group of teachers decided to incorporate design thinking and problem-based learning by making the students work in groups to analyze an event from history. The lesson from history-“pilgrims’ journey to America in Mayflower”- was used as the contest to incorporate science and math into it. The students were asked to design a new boat that would overcome all the problems quoted in history. Divided into the groups, the students brainstormed to develop a sturdy ship that could withstand any storm, pirates, overcrowding, or any leakages.

During the design thinking process, the students understood the concepts of buoyancy, how wind and shapes of boats could be a hindrance for the sailing and the working of different parts of the ship. After the design, thinking stage, each group was provided with materials like cardboard, foam, duct tape, tin foil etc. to build the prototypes of their boats. The kids during the prototyping stage kept in mind the various aspects like size, shape, and placement of sails. After the model was ready, the rain gutters were filled with water and fans placed to test the speed of the designed boats. Marbles that represented the weight of the passengers and cargo were added to the boats to check the load handling capacity.

The overall experiment did a great job of making the kids understand the context in history as well as the various concepts of science. The integrated learning might be time consuming, but the impact it makes on children is lifelong

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Learning Math through stories

“Why do we need to learn this?” is the question that springs up in kids’ minds when they sit to solve a math problem. Well, the question not only arises among the kids, but it is also equally resonated within the math-hating crowd of adults. This article presents an experiment by a trigonometry teacher who successfully eliminated the fear of math among the kids.

The whole experiment began with the teacher reading out one of the Chris Ferrier’s Baby university series that explained the necessity of breaking down a complex problem to simple ones that even a baby can understand. The kids were divided into groups and were given a math problem they were struggling to solve. The group members were encouraged to ask questions and get clarifications so that the ideas became simpler. After a series of discussions and revisions, the children wrote down their understanding. They were then encouraged to create short books using cardstocks and colour pencils.

The activity as a whole was exciting to kids, as they got a new perspective of understanding math problems. Another task given to the kids was to connect the story problems in their textbook to form a bigger story. The experiment was found to be fruitful because kids began enjoying problem-solving as they had applied their perspectives to it. They felt connected with the story problem and thereby increasing their motivation to solve the questions.

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Applying computational thinking across the curriculum

Computational thinking is one of the ways to solve problems, design systems, and understand human behaviours by integrating a few concepts of computer science. Following are the four computational skills that can be applied to a student’s curriculum.

  • Algorithmic thinking

Algorithmic thinking is a way of achieving the desired output by following a series of well-defined steps. Be it recreating a piece of art by identifying and plotting the coordinate pairs on a plane or practising the Punnett square algorithm to create an endless generation of children; the students need to communicate and interpret clear instructions for reliable output.

  • Decomposition

Breaking down a complicated problem into its smaller components and working on a single element at a time is an excellent way of gaining in-depth knowledge about a topic. Dissecting the American criminal justice system and identifying better solutions for a fair and balanced system activity inculcates deep analytical thinking among the students.

  • Abstraction

Identifying what is essential and stripping away unnecessary details is an excellent way of reducing the complexity of a problem. Abstraction can also mean representing a system with a simple model or visualization. For example, the human anatomy study can be visualized as 3D amusement parks based on the body and the organ system functioning as rides can be helpful in a deeper understanding of the concepts.

  • Pattern recognition

Students can utilize the information gotten from pattern recognition by analyzing trends in data and using those data to work out a solution. Science students can gather data about different real-time seismic activities and identify how the pattern of clustered seismic activity is the result of tectonic plate movements.

Computational thinking is already applied to the curriculum in different ways, like STEM learning and project-based learning. Giving the technique a computer term can connect students well with the studies.

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