All Play and No Work

By March 1, 2016 BlogPost One Comment

Does anyone else remember that one game with math and the spaceman? It started with an alien stealing your friend (I think), and then you had to do several addition games to collect garbage keeping your ship from flying away, convert the trash into fuel to power your spaceship, and to blast asteroids out of your way. While this game didn’t teach me to add, subtract, multiply, or divide, it did allow me to use these skills in a way I enjoyed. Playing that game was fun for me, even though math typically wasn’t.

Reading Gee’s article brought this memory back to mind, and I started wondering why young children get to have fun learning. That fourth grade slump that Gee mentions seems to connect more to how teaching changed around that age. Instead of activities and group projects, we had to write an essay for the first time. There were a lot of tests based on your ability to memorize the capitols and locations of states, and there wasn’t anymore free time in the classroom to play. Gone were cozy rugs near reading nooks: you sat at your desk and you sat up straight, or Mrs. Perrizo would come down like the hand of God.

As we got older, learning became less and less about learning how to do things in a certain semiotic domain (in this case school), and were pushed more and more toward learning “content.” This emphasis included a transition from fun learning too much more boring learning… at least for me. Did anyone else have the same experience?

One Comment

  • Michelle C says:

    Ugh, fourth grade slump. I had an awful fourth grade math teacher. At the time, my eyes had changed and I needed glasses, it was really sudden and really bad. It was frustrating because I didn’t feel like anyone was listening when I said that I needed help. I think that that stems from your argument that something changes in that grade that really changes the system. It does become about regurgitation and memory olympics than about intellectual connection and making information relevant. Maybe with the death of common core we’ll see some freedom back in the classroom.

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