Two Books to Share In Public School Classrooms During Advent (and Private too!)

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10

Join me in my classroom, where on Mondays I regularly share mathematical wonders to start our week. Sometimes they are magic tricks, sometimes a game, sometimes a piece of origami or art. All are sure to involve mathematics, but instead of laying out the math involved, we remain in a state of wonder and amazement. We just try to enjoy the math for whatever intrinsic value it carries.The ideas, objects, or activities shared are meant to be an opportunity for students to start their week in Mathematics well.

During the Mondays in December, I am sure to include the book, The Christmas Story, a pop-up book, as a mathematical wonder. No one is required to examine it or read it; however, many naturally do so.

I am planning to say, “For today,I would love to share with you a pop-up book. If you have never had the pleasure of looking at a quality pop-up book, you are in for a treat!” At this point, I will begin paging through the book. Not reading it, but just opening the pages and commenting on the displays that pop-up, pointing out the mechanics and the math that amaze me.

If you know anything about cut-aways, slit techniques, floating layers, wings, steps, diagonal boxes, pivots, slides, rotations, etc., you can include it here. But for the rest of us it is enough to say that there was incredible planning involved in creating this book. The geometry and mechanics are mind boggling! I keep it simple and answer questions if I can, allowing the book to provide the “wow factor.”

When I am ready to pass the book around, I share some expectations. I will say, “If you would like to take a closer look at the book, I’m going to pass it around. You are certainly not required to look at the book, but if you would like to, I am sharing it so that you may. While you are handling the book, please be gentle. Remember that most of the displays are made of paper, so they can easily tear. Feel free to open each page, pull the tabs, and explore as thoroughly as you like. Try to carefully close the page so everything naturally goes back in its place. If something does tear, just let me know. I won’t be mad; nothing lasts forever, right? But if we are all careful, this book can last for many classes to enjoy.”

Finally, I pass it around and allow exploration. The book is irresistible and the students are enthralled. Some read the pages, some don’t. Some comment to each other or ask questions. You may judge for yourself this book’s potential effects. It is inspirational as a mathematical and engineering wonder!

As another option, perhaps you would also enjoy using The First NOËL: A Christmas Carousel by Jan Pieńkowski. As it says in the title, the book is a carousel.

When sharing this book, I open it page by page, showing the shadow box designs, and then to the class’s amazement, I open the entire book into its carousel form, showing how it can be tied off and then hung on display. I use a similar script to pass around this book. No one is required to examine or read the books, they are simply offered as a choice.

Prayerfully consider purchasing one (or both) of these books and share it in your own way. It provides experiences within the law and it is even a great book to share with your own kids, grandkids, and families.

A Blessed Advent Season to you all!

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

Bill Mousel

Bill Mousel is a teacher at Hamilton Middle School in Hamilton, Michigan. Currently he is teaching 5th, 6th and 7th grade mathematics and enrichment. Bill holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and a Masters degree in Mathematics Education. He has been enjoying teaching since 1989.

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