A young girl I know has been working on chimney sums. (They are called chimney sums because the numbers are stacked vertically.) I was always curious about the strategies she was learning and how her mind was working. One day I offered her the iPad with the Explain Everything App open, explained that I didn’t really know what a chimney sum was and asked her to explain to me what she was doing as she worked it out. She was excited to teach me and got to work immediately.

Using Explain Everything she explained the chimney sum in great detail. She told me about each number, whether they were units, tens or hundreds, and how we were going to add them together. The result really made me smile. Not only was her explanation really clear, but  one particular bit of what she did really took me by surprise. She demonstrated a different way of working things out that I thought was really cool. You can see this bit in the video below…

It’s amazing to actually hear a thought process. I was able to experience a young learner’s mind actually thinking and working things out in real time. I love that technology can help us explore what learning looks and sounds like. I love how Explain Everything enables this. The iPad didn’t need to go anywhere or do anything else, it had all the time in the world to record the workings of this chimney sum and listen to what she had to say. I love that it can be played over and over, shared, and enjoyed and used by others. It could be a piece of art on a wall that you want your student to explain or describe, or a complex chemical compound that you want the student to analyse, or it could be a piece of work you’re giving some feedback on for a student, in a living and breathing way, not a dry, red pen exercise where most of the time no one is any the wiser as to whether anything had been learned or not. It could be as simple as a photo of the local area that two generations of people who live there are discussing or it could be as complex as international trade laws being explained to other members of staff through visual, moving elements combined with the spoken word.

I think what I’m trying to say, is that by letting students explain things on their own terms, in their own time, with an App like Explain Everything, sometimes you find a gem of a thought or an idea that you wouldn’t have heard otherwise. In turn this increases your curiosity to find out more and engage in a conversation you may never have had. It’s all good!

Surprised by a Sum
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