Can Real Academics Actually be "Cutesy"??

"Cutesy", what is it and what place does it have in real academics?  I happened to randomly come across a few blogs yesterday pertaining to the use of "cutesy" activities in math, language arts and other curricular areas.  Soon after reading the last blog I noticed I had feedback from one of my customers about a math product saying that she loved the product but a couple of the projects were more art related than math, did she mean "cutesy"?  That wasn't the last ride on my "cutesy train" as today one of my colleagues sent out an email with a math idea stating that she was reluctant to send it because she usually doesn't like "cutesy" ideas to teach mathematical concepts.  
    "I couldn't seem to escape this idea of "cutesy!"   If I were to do a self diagnosis of myself, I would have to say I have a case of "bi-polar cutesy's".  I am the first to say that I cringe at staff meetings when we are forced to partake in cute warm up "get to know you" activities. 
     Really, I'm thinking; somewhere at Dell there is a board meeting and I know they are not sharing their "roses and thorns" with each other before they get down to business!  
     I literally dread cute staff baby and wedding showers and I will usually send expensive gifts just to make up for my absence, let me guarantee you; it is worth every cent!  
    But if I were to take an honest look at myself, "cutesy" kind of rules my world.  In fact "cutesy" should rule all of our worlds if we take an in depth look at what opportunities students really need to excel at school.  In fact, art integrated into the school curriculum—is increasingly accepted as an essential part of achieving success in school, work and life. Studies show children from low-income families are less likely to be consistently involved in arts activities or instruction than children from high-income families and many times art provides the missing link to their achievement. Students who participate in arts learning experiences often improve their achievement in other realms of learning and life. In a well-documented national study using a federal database of over 25,000 middle and high school students, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles found students with high arts involvement performed better on standardized achievement tests than students with low arts involvement. 
    My classroom has always been a gallery of math and language arts activities with an artistic expression. I can't get "cutesy" enough when it comes to my grandchildren. My home is a visual representation of my style, as well as the clothes I choose to wear.  I can't wait until Christmas so that I can decorate my home with boxes and boxes of cute ornaments and trinkets. I make cute homemade gifts for students and family every chance that I get.
    Essentially, students love "cutesy" activities and so do I.  Many of my students come from homes in which resources are not available for cute decorations or art supplies and parents are working long hours and don't have the time or resources to provide creative art opportunities at home.  For most of my students over the  years I provided the only opportunity they had to be creative and if I had to do it by creating cute integrated math and language arts activities, I did.  
    There, I said it; I love "cutesy" math and language arts activities and my students do too!  Why not allow our students to have a multitude of ways to express their depth of understanding a math concept and if the activity happens to be artistic and  "cutesy" and the students love it, I'm all in!  
     In January of 2014, 6000 mathematicians from all over the country met in Baltimore. A leader of the conference created this invitation for the mathematicians:

My first reaction of course was "how cutesy" of an activity for some of our most brilliant mathematicians to participate in and that surely someone can't expect math leaders with their capabilities to complete such an endearing activity as the one above. Just how wrong I was..... Read the article below to see their clever responses to this invitation

     As the author states in his article, "Math is a means and an ends.  It's a world-changing toolkit and a beautiful world in its own right.  Math belongs not just to mathematicians, but to scientists, engineers, financiers, actuaries, artists, even television writers.  It belongs to teachers and students and infants learning to count.  It belongs to the 6000 humans who gathered in Baltimore and the 7 billion who didn't." 
     If a "cutesy" activity such as this one is good enough for some of the most intelligent minds in our country, then "cutesy" activities are definitely appropriate for the classroom.

    Tomorrow, provide the same invitation as the one above to your math students, because regardless of how you represent math, it belongs to everyone.  Have a great week,


Prime and Composite Animals

    Every week I try and add a creative challenge to the lesson plans to not only add a bit of excitement and motivation; but also give them an opportunity to stretch their imaginations.  
    We have used marshmallows and toothpicks for other games in the past; but I changed it up last week and had the students make prime and composite number animals out of marshmallows and toothpicks.  One animal had to be made from a "prime" number of marshmallows and one animal had to be made from a "composite" number of marshmallows.
    Here are a few pictures of the results.

What Costume Would Your Principal Wear at Halloween?

     I love open ended writing invitations; but I couldn't resist assigning this Halloween prompt to my students this week:  "The Craziest Halloween Ever Was When My Principal Dressed Up As A....".
     Their stories were amazing as always; but with the thought of seeing their principal on Halloween night, they came up with absolutely wonderful tales. However, they were also equally involved in designing their illustrations for what he may look like dressed up in his costume.
     I made copies of our principals head, glued them onto 3 ft x 4 ft white butcher block paper and allowed the students to design his costume after they had completed their story.  
     I've included a link to the "Freebie" resource below if you'd like to try this in your classroom.