Doing the math in poetry

I am a math teacher but I have always loved poetry. My interest in these two very different subjects made me wonder if I could bring them together in my classes. I felt that the combination of poetry and math could enthuse even the most reluctant child to learn maths.

maths-and-poetry-2

I began my search for a form of poetry that would lend itself to math and came across the Cinquain, a short poem of five lines (see box). After assuring myself that any topic in math could be explained using a cinquain I set my students the task of writing cinquains for the topics that I taught them. I divided the students into groups and the children just loved it!

As simple as the poem is, it makes you think about the topic. As you try to explain a concept according to the guidelines it is impressed upon the mind. Therefore your understanding and retention of the concept is greater.

maths-and-poetry-table

Age group: 9 to 14
Group size: 2 or 3 per group
Aim

To write a cinquain based on a topic in math

When to do
This is one activity that can be done any time after a concept has been taught!

Concepts involved
This can be used for any topic, but geometry could lead to a riot of imagination!

Conceptual aims
Exploring and understanding the math concept

Developmental aims

  • Collaborative work
  • Colour scheme
  • Writing a poem
  • Creativity
  • Time management
  • Expression
  • Social and interpersonal skills
  • Emotional expression about the concept

Material involved

  • Colour pens
  • Colour paper
  • Cinquain handout explaining how to write one

Strategy

  1. Divide the class into groups/pairs.
  2. Give each group a colour pen and a small coloured paper.
  3. Have a discussion on cinquain and maybe distribute copies of the handout on writing a cinquain.
  4. Ask them to write a cinquain on a topic of their/your choice!
  5. Ask them to first make a draft poem, have it approved by you and once you finalise it, they could put it on the coloured paper using a creative design.
  6. Once the children are comfortable writing cinquains you could make it more challenging by giving them time limits to finish the poems.
  7. Display all the poems on a board.

maths-and-poetry-1

Watch out!

  • Keep it quick! Start and end within the class time so the work is spontaneous.
  • Make the group structure carefully. I start with allowing them to form their own groups and then make subtle changes according to how the groups are working together. This is the time to bring in children who do not talk to each other otherwise!
  • Watch carefully which child is gently being nudged out and step in.
  • Have a clear rubric so the children know what is expected of them.
  • Use the structure loosely. We don’t want them to feel stifled by it.

Rubric
Math involved – clarity of expression and explanation of math involved
Quality of poem – staying with the structure of cinquain
Aesthetic display – colourful designing

Resource – website http://teams.lacoe.edu/documentation/classrooms/amy/algebra/5-6/activities/poetry/cinquain.html

The author is a math teacher in Pathways World School, Gurgaon. She can be reached at reachmonica@gmail.com.


First published in Teacher Plus magazine in the May-June issue of 2009.

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