Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Use a fountain pen to improve your thinking

I have always enjoyed writing with a fountain pen. When most, well virtually all, of my friends and colleagues use biros, roller balls, and felt tip pens I stick to my fountain pen. When I was a secondary school student I loved pulling pens apart and checking the bits and then putting it together, hoping it would work. Didn't always work.

The Lamy Safari, with a fine nib shown above, is my favourite. I've got Watermans and Parkers in my collectin but it's the Lamy Safari I return to use always.

Not everyone likes handwriting and I've been told at times that writing notes in a notebook and then typing them is double work. But I like the feel of handwriting, I can doodle, draw arrows, make connections, and quickly jot notes in the margin. In fact I think differently when I handwrite. Jack Vinson in a blog about thinking while notetaking. He talks about typing being more linear and careful but

Writing, on the other hand, allows me to make more jumps and smash thoughts
together even when they are not discussed in the same sentence. You might talk about X-Y-Z-A-B-C-Y, and I can lump the Y's together by simply smashing some text into the margin. Or I can draw lines and arrows and conceptually group things with circles and squares. I can also doodle. I can't draw at the computer without finding a different application that breaks my chain of thought.

I came across this in a post of Angela Booth's titled: Writing is thinking: switch to pen and paper and use both sides of your brain.

Success for low achieving kids with chess

Yesterday I met with Dr Steve Tobias, Senior lecturer in maths education at James Cook University, Townsville, to review the chess numeracy initiative in our cluster of schools. Steve is keen to explore the data we have been collecting on the connection between playing chess and maths thinking.

All thirteen schools in our cluster took part in the project. We mainstreamed chess in grades 5 & 6 as part of the initiative, paid for tutors to take the students through strategies and playing games, all the while making connections to maths. The knowledge and passion of the tutors coupled with enthusiastic classroom teachers made for a heady and successful mix.

One of the successes, which we are keen to explore, is that in a number of schools, students with low academic achievement found success playing chess. A number of boys in different schools told us that this was the first time in their school life they had been successful at something mentally challenging. We're not sure exactly what's going on here but plan to conduct surveys gathering some quantifiable information and follow it up with quantitative data by interviewing students.

It is possible that the spatial relationships is an area these kids are good at. I came across a piece by David Cohen on chess education which i have yet to read but I intend passing it on to my chess experts. You see the irony of the situation is that I'm coordinating the initiative but I don't play chess. One of the sections in his paper deals with maths and visualisation:

Children develop math skills with chess because of a common requirement of chess and math: visualization. This usually occurs in
Grade 2 (at age 7). Chess develops visualization abilities as follows:
Chess board - The chess board is laid out in a checkered pattern of a large square comprised of 64 smaller squares arranged 8x8. Children can be taught their way around the board through its various patterns(ranks, files, diagonals, colouring of squares).
Moves of the chess pieces - The child first learns the movements of the chess pieces which travel in straight lines: pawn, rook, bishop, and queen. But then the child is introduced to a movement that is quite different from the others: the L-shaped jump of the knight. The movement is not only different from the child’s previous chess experience, but is also likely an entirely new experience for the child. The child must learn to visualize the movement.
Moving chess pieces around on the chess board - Moving a chess piece from a starting square to an ending square forces the child to visualize the patterns and movements.

I found this information through a google alert which led me to the Waterfront Juniour Intermediate Chess Club. I'm beginning to see what the web 2.0 - read, write web, is all about.