Finger Paint, Calculus, and Music

The summer I turned 10 I had just finished 4th grade. Two of my classmates and I were given a wonderful opportunity. Each day for a few weeks we got to go to a very cool workshop at one of the local colleges. (there were children from other schools, as well). We rode our bikes to campus each day for a number of weeks. For a dreamy-eyed Gidget-girl like me it was just heavenly.

The campus was an idyllic tree filled peaceful place with graceful stone and brick buildings. In the class the professors presented some concepts on the blackboard. Then they would give us each a piece of glass (with no sharp edges) and a few containers of finger paint. They would turn the lights off and show us some sort of film that had animated figures and background music. One particular day the film showed animated chickens laying eggs and then nesting with the eggs. During the film some of the eggs hatched in an animated way. We were to be painting (on our glass) while we watched this happen. Now at the same time as all of this, up on the screen popped some kind of equations or formulas. We were to continue painting what we saw, using our finger paints.

Sounds kind of strange, right? Then they would snap the lights back on. They came around with pieces of paper, and we placed the paper onto our painting on the glass, gently pressed it down and then lifted up the paper, which now had a copy of our painting (which was ours to keep). Then we cleaned off the glass and washed our hands. Then we were each called up to the board one at a time. They played some of the same music we had heard, and we actually each worked problems like what we had seen in the film, while we explained aloud what we were doing. Of course, at the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal to us, but the professors were excited and took a lot of notes. To me and my classmates it was a fun workshop. We loved doing all the artwork, ย blackboard work, and spending time with the interesting professors.

Here is the amazing part, though. Many years later I was in Calculus class in college. My professor was in the midst of explaining exactly how to do derivatives. It was getting more and more complicated. I was staring at the board trying my best to learn and concentrate. She then put an additional formula on the board. All of a sudden, in my mind, I could hear that darn chicken and egg music and see the chick hatch. I could then completely understand what my prof was teaching us. My prof saw the look on my face and asked me to stay after class.

I told her exactly what had happened and about the class. It turns out that the stuff they were teaching us was Calculus. She had heard all about the workshop and experiments that they did to enhance learning. She said that doing the art with music while they taught us the Calculus concepts enhanced learning beyond their wildest dreams. SO~that particular summer I learned how to do derivatives in Calculus. AND my prof said that they determined that this worked and it proved you do NOT have to be a genius to learn calculus!

So the next time you see some finger paint, know that doing something tactile while trying to learn something complex can cut through fear, anxiety, difficulty, and open wonderful pathways!!

 

About Kate Kresse

I love to write, I love to talk, I love to uplift people when I can. I am a woman in love with life. I am a wife, mom, tutor, writer, and I am a perennial optimist. (OK not every single minute but you get the point! :-)
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14 Responses to Finger Paint, Calculus, and Music

  1. Exactly the concept behind the math Wrap-Ups and Sing Around the World. My 4-year-old was able to name all the states in the Union and when he was 3 he learned to read via American Sign Language.
    I was scared,because the lessons were for his older sibs, not him, (remembering the Kindergarten teachers forbade ruining children by teaching them the alphabet before they entered school) but it seemed to do him no harm at all. ๐Ÿ™„

  2. tbnranch says:

    Great post! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Caddo Veil says:

    WOW! I don’t have big enough fonts to do the WOW as I’m feeling it inside–this is phenomenal stuff, Kate. Makes me wonder if there’s a connection between that and the pastel art therapy my counselor had me do in the early nineties.

    • Kate Kresse says:

      oh don’t you just love working with pastels??? I love them. I’m sure there IS a connection with your art therapy1 You should get out your pastels and draw with some music on….I bet you will almost hear some of the life-affirming things your counselor said!

  4. Loved this post Kate.. I did some finger painting only today with my 20mth old granddaughter ๐Ÿ™‚ xxx Wishing you well my friend xx

    • Kate Kresse says:

      isn’t it a joy to finger paint with your granddaughter? Oh I love the feel of those paints and the expression on children’s faces when they create! Have a lovely day Sue~

  5. That’s so true! I was a preschool teacher, and sometimes when I was going through something difficult just contact with those paints or clays helped me resolve my own issues. I hadn’t thought of that in a long time…and I don’t think anything would help me with calculus! ๐Ÿ™‚ Debra

    • Kate Kresse says:

      isn’t it amazing how contact with that stuff cuts through emotional nonsense and helps you resolve? It is quite extraordinary. Re Calculus—if you had the teacher I had, you’d learn it—she was AMAZING!! But regardless~ I bet your years as a preschool teacher were precious and treasured (for you and your lucky students)! ๐Ÿ™‚ Kate

  6. Wow! What an interesting experience, and how great that you learned its purpose later in life.

    They say that music and maths are linked; looks like they’re right.

    This was a really interesting post.

    • Kate Kresse says:

      It was quite eye-opening to see that chicken and egg inside my head right in the middle of a math class! Perhaps they planted chips in our heads LOL! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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