What do levers and long division have to do with hugs and hard labour?

We taught levers as a mechanical advantage this month. Our starting point was to tell them that the next day they were going to see if they could get a teacher up into the tree.

They came to school so excited. We had a guest teacher come in because we know ‘difference’ grabs the brain’s attention.

While they started their day in the quad on the other side of the school, he set up ropes and pulleys running from the tree to his car and a secret weapon under my car.

They came running out to see what was up. His first question was to see who could lift my car by the towbar. They all tried to lift it. He even showed them how to bend their legs and use all their muscles, but still the car didn’t budge.

Quietly he moved around the side of the car and beckoned them over. There he was magically lifting the car with a single finger on a bright red carjack. The image I have is a cartoon character leaning against the vehicle wearing a tuxedo and sipping a martini. As casual as can be.

“Let me try, let me try.” They all called out as if they were seagulls after a single fish.

He had them hooked.

The lesson went on and they eventually had the smallest 7 year old pulling his car with an 11 strand pulley system. Now they had an experience to draw from. A real-life body experience. Not watching someone else, but actually doing it.

Our next task was to link the maths to the experience. We had them so curious and so tuned into the experiment that they put effort into figuring out the maths and getting their heads around the concepts.

Only we hit a stumbling block the next day with the 3 classes of levers. I spotted that it could be a progression/sequencing issue. Something we had been working on for 6 weeks around long division. Long division (while antiquated in terms of curriculum) is a useful measure of working memory, visual perceptual skills, progression and sequencing.

So here we find a junction where two separate subjects are showing a similar failure point. Now we leave those alone and do some ‘other’ work in these areas, so when we come back to long division and levers, we will be able to see if we have solved some of the underlying problems.

You can start with hugs and hard labour. Hug them 20 times a day and get them to carry in the groceries. This physical input given to our nervous systems helps us to regulate and make better sense of the space around us and how to think about it.

Look into the value of chores, or take a quick look here.

There is more we are doing, outdoor movement games teach them to manage their gangly limbs and find order in the disorder. Playdough compresses the fine joints in their hands which regulates their writing. Playing in the mud stimulates their creativity. Chores at school give them purpose and regulation.

We’ll see next term if we have done enough, yet.

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