I’m dressed in math flash cards today, an idea that came to me months ago when I saw flash cards on sale at a store. These cards were cheerier than most flash cards, with their colorful borders, and instantly I saw potential for them to become wearable art. Perhaps if more flash cards had bright colors on them, kids would be excited about math drills. Hey, bring a little dazzle to math!
It’s always fun for me to create an outfit made of unexpected materials. Having learned from my attempt to sit in my cupcake liner dress earlier this year, I decided that I would make this costume more of an apron rather than a dress. I wanted it to be a little bit open in the back because sitting on paper breaks your paper and is uncomfortable. What I didn’t anticipate, though, is that this apron would not be interested in bending. I should have known this, since the cards are fairly rigid and I glued each one to my fabric. When I finally put this outfit on (five minutes before leaving the house today) I realized that I could not bend. Could I get through the day without bending? I didn’t think so. A few quick cuts in the front of the dress allowed me to walk a little more easily. Bending down to pick up things I dropped was not easy, and I’m always dropping something. And don’t get me started on using the bathroom in this dress! Bathroom breaks are a reality. Bathroom breaks require bending. Oh, my.
Wednesday mornings are when I volunteer at my youngest child’s school, helping kiddos with their banking. The students have their own accounts, and they bring me deposits of dollars or coins. I bring their money to the credit union, where it is put into their accounts. Although my costume today wasn’t intended as a reference to banking, wearing numbers while I took the kids’ money worked with my theme. Saving their money in the bank is a real life application of math because they are earning interest. Lots of students commented on my costume and solved some of the math problems on my dress. I doled out high fives as kids solved the problems on the flash cards and told me that they knew 12 x 12. 144! High five.
Later, after I deposited the kids’ money, I did several errands on foot. People were surprised and delighted by my outfit. Quite a few people asked whether I was a math teacher. I’m not, but I do think math is important and this costume has turned into a way to bring a little more fun to math. Several people commented that they wish their math teacher had made classes a little more exciting. These tended to be people of an older generation, and I imagine that in their day, school was a serious place. My oldest child has math projects that bring a little extra fun to the subject, and connect math to the world outside the classroom. I love that. Even if math isn’t a student’s favorite subject, it’s important to understand how it connects to the real world. As adults we use math every single day. At the supermarket our understanding of math is in use when we compare prices per ounce of food. We use math to select a phone plan—not just choosing the most affordable plan, but deciding which combination of services and costs fits our needs. Math isn’t just for the parts of life that are obligatory, like paying an electricity bill. Math can be your friend when you’re doing your favorite activity. Understanding numbers can help you decide whether to rent roller skates at the rink or to buy them. Will I use my skates often enough to justify the cost? If there are any kids or teens out there reading this blog, take it from me—understanding math isn’t just about passing the course and keeping your parents at bay. A good understanding of math can help you for the rest of your life.
Formula for Fun Math Apron:
· Fabric (see below)
· Hot glue gun and hot glue sticks (or regular glue if you are more patient about dry time than I am)
· Flash cards (I used two packages of cards—probably 80 or more cards in all)
1) Get some fabric as the base of your costume. I used a piece of cotton I had already. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Cut up an old sheet if you have one. No one will see the fabric.
2) Measure against your body how tall the apron will be. Also measure around your body so that the apron will covers as much as you’d like it to.
3) Cut your fabric into an apron shape, based on the width and height you just measured for yourself. (Here’s what the apron looks like from the back.)
4) Cut a length of fabric to create a strap that will attach to the top of the apron, around your neck. It needs to fit over your head. Attach it to the apron. Create straps for the back of the apron.
5) Start hot gluing your flash cards to the front of your apron. You can glue them randomly, or in a pattern, as I did. I did my pattern according to color, but there’s no wrong way to do this.
6) Keep gluing down cards until your fabric is covered. Try it on and if it’s too stiff for walking, cut some slits in the bottom of the apron so you can move.
7) Walk into math class and see what happens.
Flash cards (from the 99 cent store), 2 packages $2
Hot glue sticks (from the 99 cent store) $1
Random piece of fabric you already had $0
Total spent $3
Now, I hope your pencils have been sharpened because I have a surprise for you. Pop quiz!