Video 36: Magnetic Surfaces – Part 1.

Don’t your children just love “rearranging” the magnets on your fridge, filing cabinet, or door?

In this three-part series, let’s look at how some children use magnetic surfaces to develop thinking to solve problems. In Part 1, we offer one simple set of materials: cove molding of various sizes and marbles. They don’t take much space and when this set-up is available and accessible, children will always interact with the materials at their own pace and in a variety of ways. They will use parts here and there, go through trial and error a few times and come back to it later, with revised ideas or a fresh approach to the new problems. In small groups, or by themselves, they are engaging in the ability to think deeply about a problem and how to solve it. After a problem is solved, another one comes along in the form of a classic children’s question: “What if I do this instead of that?”

So what are the options here? Well, there are a few that I can mention and more that you will find out with your children: they can start over, add to, take out, change directions, use more or fewer pieces, control the number of marbles, compare drops from heights, flip the pieces, develop aims and directions (i.e.: making the marble fall into the yellow bucket).

In this case, a magnetic board offers several ways of creating models that work. In the video, you saw at least twelve different ways of making the marbles run from point A to point B. And it is this process of solving a range of simple to complex problems using open-ended strategies that engages children in learning about how’s, why’s and why not’s to solve problems. These thinking skills are so important when children are trying to solve a mathematical problem, learn to read, or simply chat with a peer. Being available to help them sort out misconceptions through the rich conversations that they have is certainly a plus. In their wonderings, they also become more articulate in explaining their ideas to others. For example, at some point while I was filming these boys, one of the children wondered about escalators and how they worked, tried to simulate a rough model and the conversation kept going for a while. Their brains are equipped with built-in circuitry that is ready to help process their curiosity – we just need to set the stage : ) Enjoy!

Set-Up for Episode #36:

  • Cove molding
  • Magnet strips
  • Magnetic Board
There was a great deal of trial-and-error to get to this point!
The little yellow bucket sure added to the design.
Experimenting with the different levels sure raised a lot of questions…
Another design:
Putting ideas into action:
New direction with new orientation of the board…
You can use stick-on magnetic strips on the wood. I used magnetic business cards from our local office supplies store.
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Have fun and Go Beyond The Classroom!


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