Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Movement + Math= Gymathtics

Exploracise Gymathtics from Exploramania is a 30 minute, low-impact workout that also teaches some basic math concepts in conjunction with the exercises being performed. Many kids learn better through the use of movement and the aid of a video and all kids need to get moving and exercise more (especially in the homeschooling community, where PE is not necessarily a part of a daily routine!).

Divided into four parts, Gymathtics uses basic steps, and uncomplicated movement that little ones can easily follow and moms can keep up with as well! Using arms to make parallel lines, rays and circles-- as well as stretches that bend bodies into triangles, trapazoids and more—warm-ups help to reinforce basic geometric concepts in the “Shape Stretches Warm Up” section. Diagrams of concepts are shown on the screen along with the action. The second section is “Counting Calisthenics”, where your student can count forward and back, and skip count by odds, evens and more. There is a “follow the ball” count along display on the screen as well as other math tidbits, such as explanations of integers and place value. The third section, called “Pattern Power” performs a variety of lunges and squat style sequences in various repeating patterns. Finally, “Well Being Wind Down” helps to slow down the heart rate and stretch the muscles further.

“Ms. Carrie”, the instructor in the video, leads a group of four children from approximately age 4 to 17 through the series of exercises. I personally cannot imagine a child much older than 8 or 9 enjoying the workout too many times through. I think very small children will really think it is fun and rather clever to learn math concepts in such a way. The DVD cover says that it is for kids of “all ages” and that the math concepts “target 2nd-5th grade levels” (the latter description does seem to fit). Kids that are nearing the double digit mark will find it a bit low key and probably learn the concepts (if indeed they are new to them) rather quickly; lending the DVD to be passed over in favor of something more exciting after several perusals. Kids older than 10 years old will, like my own, find it very cheesy (my youngest is in 6th grade).

Certainly this video is produced as a labor of love and by a spark of vision to fill a need for very kinesthetic learners. I realize these sorts of projects are pricey to produce and not made by professionals; so I hesitate to disparage the efforts of a mom-and-pop type of creation. However, with the video savvy culture causing us to be used to cutting-edge effects, I think it is only fair to warn of cheesy-ness…it may not work for many kids out there and would be a waste of money for some.

If our family had not been given a copy to review, I would have been sorely disappointed in the overall campy tone. Throughout the video there is syrup-y high fives, as well as cheers from the participants that seemed forced and fake. The final phase, the cool down, is full of odd ball (though helpful) advice. For instance, while sitting cross legged and stretching one arm overhead and to the side, students are told to make a “nice wave.” Then a voice-over says things like, “use nice words and nice actions,” and “use nice ears for listening, all the time.”

However, I would like to reiterate that really young children would probably find Gymathtics to be cheery and fun (think Barney, the early episodes), and will learn some concepts that will likely make them ahead of the game with their math skills.

Furthermore, there has been much acclaim given-- neigh-- lavished upon this DVD over this past year, so maybe I don't know nuthin'! Eight awards in eight months is not something to sneeze at--so there are obviously people out there that like what the folks at Exploramania are doing. Decide for yourself by visiting their website by clicking here where you can buy Gymathtics for $24.99 and check out their other products as well.

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.