Monday, September 26, 2011

Hanford Chinese Moon Festival - Living History

No one to my knowledge has written anything that comes within a shadow of portraying the epic feat of the Chinese in the building of the West. Quotation fromThe Chinese Railroad Men

Celebrating the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival in China Alley, Hanford, California is a way to breathe life and realism into the study of California’s gold rush years. You and your favorite kids can watch authentic lion dancers, sample moon cakes (think not-too-sweet Twinkie traditionally filled with all manner of things—but often with plum paste at the Hanford festival), reconnoiter through the gold rush era museum and Taoist Temple and visit with descendants of Chinese Pioneers. From gold mines to farms, from railroads to mercantile establishments Chinese immigrants helped to build the American west and this is an especially exciting year as Hanford's China Alley is now listed in the national registry of endangered historical sites. I am privileged to be invited to participate in the festivities again and I’d love to see you there! I’ll be signing my series of China-related mathematical adventure picture books in China Alley between noon and 4:00 pm, October 1, 2011. You'll recognize me right away. I'll be the one with a tangram quilt on a lap-quilting hoop.

For more information about the celebration see "China Alley set for Annual Moon Festival" in the The Hanford Sentinel the source of the delightful photo above.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting Ready for Geometry

Readiness for Euclidean geometry can be gained by teaching intuitive geometry or by giving children an opportunity to build increasingly elaborate constructions with polygons (closed plane figures having three or more straight sides)
-Jerome S. Bruner , 1966

Many quilt blocks allow us to experience polygons in a special way. Boys and girls alike are enticed by the colors, textures and patterns of traditional quilts. Earlier this year my niece Marlene provided passage on a quilter's cruise for me. Some gift, right? Classes were filled by the time I registered so before sailing I cut all the pieces for a tangram block quilt (green, yellow & red-- see my quilt block layout above) to piece together by hand. In 2000, when The Warlord's Puzzle hit bookstore shelves, a master quilter in upstate New York designed this tangram block. For detailed instructions see my newly updated website on the bottom of the "For Teachers" section. Quilt block pieces may be enlarged to suit. During scheduled "Quilt at Sea" classes, I settled myself on a comfortable deck chair and stitched my tangram blocks. Passengers strolling by stopped to ask about my colorful project. I "just happened" to have a copy of The Warlord's Puzzle and chatted about how touching, arranging, and sewing plane geometric figures helps prepare children to learn Euclidean geometry. During my seven day cruise I met lots of delightful people and was able to piece an entire lap-quilt top. Now I am hand-quilting the sandwich of quilt top, batting and backing. I find my bright handcraft perfect for the slow times at book signings--a fine conversation starter about picture book crafts and mathematics learning. If you choose, you'll find this project perfect to share with your favorite kids--an equally fine conversation starter about squares, triangles, rhomboid parallelograms and practical geometry.

The picture below is one of my fellow sailer/quilter's take on the tangram pattern. For instructions on paper-quilting the tangram block request pattern & instruction from