Critical Thinking and Sledding: How to Get the Most Fun Out of Snow.


On Mount Lemmon, the kids are understanding that there are different stages of snow, or forms of snow.  Lightly dusted snow can melt quickly once the sun comes up.  Snow that has been there for a while can be hard as a rock.  They must waste no time when the snow is just perfect because it might not be like that the next day, or even later in the day.

For this particular day, we were going to check out a favorite area to go sledding.  They had full faith that there was the perfect snow for sledding and they were right!  The rest of the afternoon was filled with pure blissful fun!  However, it was the next morning that would prove to be the challenge.

The next morning, the kids wanted to try sledding again, but there was not any “new” snow. It was the same patch that was used the previous day.  It was also windy the previous night which moved a lot of debris.  As usual, the kids went to the top of the path to sled down and it was a disappointment.  So I began asking them some questions to help in their thinking of what was potentially slowing them down.  Here is a list of things we came up with:

  1.  Pinecones, pine needles, and rocks were on the path, which slowed them down.
  2. A smoother surface would help them sled down faster
  3. The layer of snow was not as thick as the previous day because it was pressed down from yesterday’s sledding and no new snow had fallen.
  4. To sled down, someone had to push the person on the sled for a bit to get going, or having mom pull them down worked too!

The kids still had fun and they helped each other out with getting all the debris out of the way, taking turns pushing each other, and tried to lay flat on the snow board sometimes to go faster.  It was their second time sledding and I think they understand how to think critically to get the most fun out of snow.  I also did my own turn in sledding down the incline to show them what I can do to sled faster to see if that would work for them too!  So where is the math in all of this?

Something to Think About:

In Mathematics, critical thinking is really important.  When you come up with a problem that has a lot of “problems” in it, trying to look at what is keeping you from solving it out is important!  When you can critically look at a situation, without getting upset or feeling frustrated, to see what is slowing you down in solving the problem in the first place, you will become more successful.  It also takes practice.

Since sledding is not intimidating to the kids, it was easier for them to think critically and not give up so quickly.  The more times the kids can do this for things that are “no big deals” to them, the easier it will be to show them how to apply this for any sort of math problem.  It is also important to purposefully tell them that these are the same tools of thinking to apply in any math problem they encounter.

Here are a few questions to ask your child when they are having trouble with solving a math problem:

  1. What is the word problem asking you to do?
  2. Have you done this type of math problem before? If you have, how did you solve that one? (this is like thinking back to when the snow was perfect for sledding the day before)
  3. What is slowing you down? Is there too much information given to you?  What do you really need to solve this problem? (this is like the pinecones and rocks in the path)
  4. Would you like me to help you, or have your brother or sister help you? (this is like me showing them how I sled down the incline to show them what could work)
  5. What if I showed you how to do a similar problem and then you can see if what I did would help you solve the next one?

In reality, the first time we directly apply critical thinking to a situation may not mean that they will be able to transfer that when working with math problems.  It takes time, practice, and directly referring back to a situation in context.  Be patient, everyone learns differently, and most of all, have fun!  Mathematics really should not be presented as something difficult to learn. It was not made to be that way.  Have fun with it!  Enjoy!

copyright 2018 Christina Grossman. All Rights Reserved


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