Monday, January 15, 2018

Physically Stretching Angles To Get A Feel For Degrees

Units of measurement can be a tough concept, primarily because they are man made ideas.  Consider the time measurement of a "Minute." What the hell is that?  60 Seconds.  Well, what is a second then? Show me a second.  How about the length measurement of a "Foot." Common lore is it is a distance measured as the length of the Kings foot.  Damn, one could only imagine how weird that is as new kings come and go.  Anyway, these things are not endemic to nature, they are convenience grouping mechanisms (that are often not convenient!!)

Degrees are another such man made measurment construct.  We say things like circles have 360 degrees, or the corner of a square has a measure of 90 degrees.  Alas, what is a degree and how does one get a feel for what it is?
Making 90 degree corners is easy!

The girls and I were stretching for our daily Martial Arts session when we stumbled into a nice way to express our degrees of an angle.

The floors inside our house are big square tiles.  By having the girls do their stretching with  their butts on the grout line crossing points, we could line our selves up along the edges of the square to put ourselves at 90 degrees!

As we sat stretching at 90 degrees, I asked my youngest what half of 90 would be and she said 45.  I then asked my eldest to close her legs to half of what they were, and asked her what angle she was now making. "45 degrees dad"  Perfect!!

Show Offs! 180 degrees
Back to 90 degrees.  "How much is 2 x 90 degrees?" "180 degrees dad." "YES! Let's go!" and into full split action we went!!

Making Angles and Degrees an Experience rather than a theoretical mental construct aligns perfectly with our Homeschool Charter (III.Philosophy.4). Having them be the legs of an angle was key. They got a feel for various angle measures, how to measure the angle between two lines, and how four 90 degree corners could build a square; plus they did their stretching to boot!

As we wrapped up our stretching, the youngest piped up, "You know dad, it's like the arms on a clock"  Yup, sure is.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Learning The Most Important Learning Skill: Learning On Your Own

KJ watching another kid play a Grand Champion Chess Player
Self-Sufficiency- I've harped on this a million times because it is a key component of a happy life and an enabling factor for a strong society.  It's so important that it has a formal place in our HomeSchool Charter. One of the keys to Self-Sufficiency is being able to learn things on your own.  Sure, I could distill and dispense information all day long and have the girls simply learn that way, but I will not always be there and I certainly don't know everything.

Further, as humankind evolves, there will be new frontiers where there is no established textbook or knowledge base and those that will thrive will be those that can teach themselves these emerging areas.  I'm giving my girls a HUGE advantage over others by emphasizing the self-learning skill.  Being able to do this was a huge part of my professional success: I could teach myself the most bleeding edge technologies before they ever appeared in common communication channels (when everyone else could catch up), and by the time they did emerge I was already known as the expert and even quoted in common press articles and books (I've even had chapters in books devoted to what I did!)

To help build the "Learn on your own" self-sufficiency skill, I gave KJ a choice of a Strategy Game that she would have to learn on her own.  The choices were Go, Poker, and Chess.  She would have to join a league, and I would determine her "grade" based on how well she did in the league.  Neither her mom nor I would help her, she was on her own (beyond approving of online account type stuff).

KJ selected chess, and started her journey.  She found all her own resources (websites, videos, and even an online chess learning "freemium" platform called ChessKid).

Here are a couple of things that have emerged, beyond her simply learning chess:

  • In the beginning, we would overhear KJ sharing with her little sister,Dy, what she learned. This dialog spawned lots of neat side-effects- KJ could ensure she understood finer points, KJ gained places of further inquiry as some of Dy's questions she didn't know the answer to, Dy picked up the rules of the game, the girls had talking points that were not superficial 
  • The competitive aspect of chess has served as a neat way to goad KJ further, as she hates to loose, even to a "robot." So she works her knowledge and even more importantly, thinks about strategy application (yeah! more strategy!!!)
The hardest part has been keeping the wife component from "Helping" :) That motherly instinct is strong!!! But the Wifie understands that the goal really isn't mastery of chess, but mastery of learning how to learn on your own.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Wildcraft Game Review - A So-So Cooperative Family Game For Learning Strategy

Our oldest, KJ, loves to study the medicinal uses of plants.  It's not my thing, but it is hers.  Maybe someday she will become some sort of pharmacologist spelunking the wilds of the Amazon to find rare and unique plants that could cure cancer.  Who knows!?

So, anyway, while reading posts on a homeschool forum, I saw a number of posts about a game wherein you collect plants to solve various maladies!  HOW DAMN COOL!!! I couldn't wait to order the game, it is called Wildcraft.  (Wildcrafting happens to be the name of foraging wild plants to help with various physical issues or for food).

As is our approach to all new games, each of us read the instructions on our own.  We got together to have a discussion of the rules and make any aggreements or clairifications before we start.  We found the rules to be VERY simple and we were able to get into game play very fast.  As a side note, I particularly enjoyed the family friendly tone and nature of the instructions, along with how the was created.... which was by a family!  It make it feel more genuine to us all, knowing that another family made the game and is seeing success selling it.
The layout of the game is simple, with near zero set up time.  All you have to do is create a pile of tokens, segment the cards, unfold the board, and viola, you're into game play mode.

The game is listed as a cooperative board game.  As a family that plays a lot of games, we love these kinds of games as the mission is all about all of us succeeding together.  It becomes a nice joint mission.

At a macro level, the goal of the game is to get up the mountain, collect some berries, and return to grandma before it's dark.  Alas, you do get some bumps and bruises (and other ailments) along the way that require your skill as a Wildcrafter to handle.  For a basic ailment, like being tired, you (or another member of the party) need to have collected a plant to resolve that issue. The plant is represented by a card, so either you have the card of the planted needed or you don't.  The pictures of the plants on the ailment cards are very helpful.

It doesn't take long, however, to realize that the game is tremendously chance driven.  There really isn't a whole lot of "strategy" thinking.  That is, choices really don't have a huge impact either way and smart choices actually have negligible impact in the game. The creators of the game made it clear in the instructions that really the rules are guidelines and that they expect people to morph and modify as they go.  We've begun experimenting with rule tweaking to help make the game involve more decision making versus blind luck.

As game playing adults, the game is neat the first go around, but after that it is kind of lame.  Our daughters, however, enjoy playing the game and pull it out on their own to play. (the pictures in this post were taken on a Sunday afternoon when they did just this).

As far as ages go, a 7 year old could do this.  I suspect that many boys would find the game too girly to keep their interest.

If you want to teach strategy, I would not recommend this game.  If you want to learn about the basic uses of some plants, then maybe (the biggest common online criticism of the game is that while the game tells you which plant(s) solve an ailment, it does not say what part of the plant to use nor how it should be prepared).  If you have some daughters that like plants and flowers and picking berries and the notion of hiking up a mountain to pick berries for Grandma, then this game is a winner!