Poetry, Science & Math, OR why I love the web

by | Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A 5th grade science assignment, transformed. A rant about Mother Goose. A math poetry challenge!  How did that come to be? And what does that have to do with loving the Interwebs? Read on…

I had written earlier about how my 10 year-old daughter had been writing poems on science (Scientific Poems or Sci-Po’s for short). It all started with an extra-credit assignment she needed to do for her science class, and a need, I perceived, to keep her blog (Uniquely Mine) up-to-date. She has quite a few written now. For instance here is one about a news item about scientists finding dinosaur eggs (and other dino-stuff) in India (Cluster of dinosaur eggs found in southern India), and here’s the poem:

Dino eggs found in India

Archeologists in India, blinked
When they saw things that they thought were extinct
In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu
They found dino eggs, bones, and guess what, they found dino poo!

Independently of this, Sean Nash (of Nashworld) wrote a post (actually a mini-rant) about some mathematics related poetry he had found in Mother Goose (Read his complete post here: But Math is hard.) He was complaining in part about this poem (see below) and the negative feelings it could generate in his kids (and others too) about mathematics.

I wrote a comment on his blog describing Shreya’s Sci-Po project and Sean and I went back and forth a bit on his comments page, and that, as far as I was concerned, was that. Shreya wrote a few more Sci-Po’s, Sean went on with his life, till yesterday I received a note from Sean about a math blogger who had taken the idea of Sci-Po’s seriously and in a new direction.

“Math Mama writes” is a blog by Sue VanHattum, a community college math teacher interested in all levels of math learning, and the mama of a young son. She had a new post yesterday where she mentions Sean’s original posting and my comment on his blog. Building on my daughter’s Sci-Po’s she sets up a challenge for her readers, in essence to write Math-Po’s! She asks her readers, “to write a little kids’ poem …  that tells of the beauty of math, or, that mentions math and challenge, both in a positive way.” One reader has already taken her up on the challenge and I am sure there will be more to come.

In a post written many months ago (Gandhi, ambigrams, creativity & the power of small pieces loosely joined) I had described David Weinberger’s idea of the web as being small pieces loosely connected. These small pieces are there because someone took the time to put it out there, because they care about it deeply and passionately. I had written:

This idea of people putting things out there, not because they seek to make money but rather because they want to share their knowledge, their skills, their interests, and that what they put out there is immediately and widely accessible is what makes the web so interesting.

How cool is this entire sequence of events and the manner in which the openness of the web allows for such sharing of ideas and resources. This way a parent’s rant about Mother Goose, connects with a 5th grader’s blog and leads a number of people to write some cool poetry on mathematics! What an interesting and fascinating world we live in.

Image credit:  Iconfinder & Iconspedia

A few randomly selected blog posts…

Computerized aesthetics… what’s right with that idea?

I just came across this... Online System Rates Images by Aesthetic Quality Pennsylvania State University (PSU) has launched the Aesthetic Quality Inference Engine (ACQUINE), an online system for determining the aesthetic quality of an image. The online photo-rating...

Finding humor in play

Learning through play has been an important part of my philosophy of teaching (and learning). In fact I have argued that play is far more important than games (though games have been receiving a great deal of educational interest lately). [You can read a previous...

The futility of existence, Part II: What now?

So there's this guy who wants to get into a balloon. Don't ask why but he does. So he inflates these large balloons and tries to squeeze into them. And he fails for the most part. And of course all of this is documented on YouTube. For instance you can see his second...

Orissa Folklore

Just got an email from a fellow Mishra (no relationship, at least I don't know of any), Dr. Mahendra Mishra who works as the state tribal education coordinator in my home state of Orissa as a part of it's Primary Education Program (more at www.opepa.in). Mahendra He...

Design for democracy

Very nice piece in today's NYTimes about ballot design (How Design Can Save Democracy). The article offers a list of problems with the traditional ballot and suggests a solution. A good example of the value of information design. Check it out here

OofSI: The year that was

OofSI: The year that was

Every December the Office of Scholarship & Innovation (OofSI) team looks back at the year that was, to document and reflect on all that we have done, as well as to plan for the future. This information is then put together in a report that captures our successes...

Technology & Education: A provocation

Technology & Education: A provocation

Jill Castek, at the University of Arizona, invited me to participate in an NSF funded workshop on developing "Principles for the equitable design of STEM learning environments." The event was being held at Bioshpere 2, which is this awesome place near Tucson. Because,...

A different language

I have always been interested in how we use words to capture intangibles. For instance wine connoisseurs have developed a specialized language (which sadly is quite opaque to me) to explain to each other characteristics of wine. So the words "fruity" and "dry" have...

TPACK in Spanish

TPACK in Spanish

Back in 2013 we (Koehler, Mishra and Cain) published an updated version of an article on TPACK. Koehler, M. J., Mishra, P., & Cain, W. (2013). What is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK)? Journal of Education (193)3, 13-20. This article was...


  1. Sacha Shawcroft

    Wow! This is pretty sweet posts, I kind of agree so I am still enjoying this.

  2. Punya Mishra

    I love it. I have to show your students’ poems to Shreya. She’ll get a kick out of it. ~ punya

  3. laptops

    i think we all love the web… there are so many reasons that i could write,so i`ll just write just one : INFORMATION ! on the web these days you can find everything from nail to airplanes and moon landings,i guess you know what i mean ,greetings



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