Last Sunday we had a quiet and rewarding visit by the Twisters.  Abdiel is not doing too well at school and needed some help with the multiplication tables.  His teacher, mother, father and a mentor have been unable to help him memorize the 12 basic multiplication tables.  This knowledge is crucial for his elementary school education.

According to Abdiel, “they” don’t know how to teach.  The problem is not “him“.  The problem is “them“.  In an effort to intervene in Abdiel’s education, I decided to give it a shot.

I devised a number’s game with bright colors, photographs, Powerpoint slides,  and witty games with my cellphone to attract his attention and then ushered him gently to the multiplication tables.  In a subtle way, I explained the use of syllogisms and critical thinking to memorize the tables.  Obviously, I avoided using these specific semantics.  I was interest in the concept of critical thinking rather than the words themselves.

Abdiel is nine years old and starting fifth grade.  I was interested in finding out how developed his brain was to handle abstract thinking.  I was satisfied to learn that he has the cogitation skills to understand this kind of thinking.  For example, I asked him, “Abdiel, if Juan is the same height as Pedro, and Pedro is the same height as Oscar, can you tell me if Abdiel is taller than Oscar?  Abdiel smiled and sheepishly answered, “Omar, all of them have the same height.”  “Excellent!“, I exclaimed loudly.  The logical conclusion was correct.

Then I explored further and presented the following thought quiz.  “Abdiel, if all birds fly, and a humming-bird is a bird, this means that…”  He was quiet for a while and then asked.  “What do you mean?”  I patiently asked again, “Abdiel do you have any comments about what I just said—anything?”  He looked puzzled for a while and then finally answered, “Omar, I think that a humming-bird can fly.”  At age nine, Abdiel is using principles of Logic to think.  This is great and it will definitely help him down the road as his education becomes more and more complex.

Anyway, going back to my story, Abdiel is now ready to take an arithmetic exam next Sunday, March 24, 2013 completing the multiplication tables from 1 to 12.  I know he will do well.  Games, a cellphone, colors, logic, and Powerpoint did the trick.  Numbers can be fun; they don’t necessarily have to be arid and boring as most people think.  Teaching has to be fun if you want students to learn.  Memorization is “Out”, Critical Thinking is “In”.

After the tuition session was over, we went over to McDonald’s and each one enjoyed a nice and cool vanilla  ice cream cone and a delicious apple pie.  The Twisters were jubilant as you can surely imagine.

Before they left, they played Nintendo Wii for a while and made interesting toys with Angry Birds assembly pieces.  I was amazed how they were able to build these colorful and creative “suns” and “planes“, using their own words.  I had no idea you could do that.  For us, it’s always a wonderful experience having these kids at home—albeit for a short while.

Below are some of the enticing creations of the Twisters.  Here we go.

Snapshot of three interesting “suns” created by the Twisters during their last visit. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of a toy plane built by the Twisters with colorful plastic assembly pieces. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

2 thoughts on “Creativity”

  1. Their toys look like a modern version of Tinker Toys. I always enjoyed playing with those. I think the height of my accomplishment was a ferris wheel, although I know I made a wagon I could pull my dolls in.

    Ah, multiplication. I had a little trouble with those tables, too, and for many years longer than I like to confess I found my fingers useful for the “nines”. (I’m sure you know that trick.) I think there’s a place for memorization, but you’re right that a good atmosphere can make the process of memorization and learning much more enjoyable.

    1. Hello Linda:

      These assembly pieces are included with Gerber products in Panama. Since Paola needs some Gerber’s foods, the kids have a large stock of these pieces. Thus the creations they are able to come up with.

      I’ve always been good with numbers, but my wife uses her fingers to get her numbers right. She’s become pretty good at using her fingers as an abacus, if you know what I mean.



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