Let’s consider the first four issues of the Forgotten Realms comics from 1989 written by Jeff Grubb and penciled by Rags Morales. It’s a 4-part series named “Hand of Vaprak” and as Grubb explains in his blog, these characters are fully aware that are living in a “fantastic universe.” So it’s more adventure than ordeal and the characters are allowed to have fun.
It’s a magical word. Magic spells, magic potions, magic vehicles… Magic gets the characters in and out of danger. So, it shouldn’t surprise you that 3 of the 6 main heroes and the dominant adversary in this series are spell casters and that they are all battling over an incredibly powerful magical artifact.
It’s a light-hearted world. If you were like me in 1989, you wanted your fantasy to feel as real as possible. That meant no silly, tongue in cheek nonsense. So, oddly, Forgotten Realms is a better match for me now that I’m cured of that confining perspective. And I’ll even admit that I chuckled a bit at this exchange in issue #2:
Assistant: The company of dragonslayers is no more…
Mage: What happened to them?
Assistant: They encountered their first dragon, milord.
It’s a Dungeons & Dragons world. If you are acquainted with the roleplaying game you will feel right at home. The D&D character classes and races, the names of spells and monsters, and even the almost sizzle of an almost thrown fireb– (see issue #3) are all here.
Everyone wants to count triangles in this figure but what about rhombi, parallelograms and trapezoids? Hexagons and pentagons? Dodecagons anyone? The abundance of parallel lines make this a good figure for 4th graders to study, both as a review of some of the shapes addressed in previous grades and as an opportunity to classify quadrilaterals based on the presence of one or two sets of parallel lines.
2.G.A.1 – recognize triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons and hexagons
3.G.A.1 – recognize rhombi as examples of quadrilaterals
4.G.A.2 – recognize parallelograms and trapezoids* by their attributes
Q1: What shapes do you see?
Q2: How many of each shape are there? Count all same sized shapes as one shape. [For example, there are 4 different sized triangles, all equilateral.]
Q3: How would you organize each of these shapes into categories?
Q4: How many categories do the rhombi belong to? Make your case.
*Although students are composing trapezoids as early as grade 1, it’s not until grade 4 that students are expected to consider its defining attributes. Use the inclusive definition of the trapezoid, a quadrilateral with at least one set of parallel sides.
Mathematician Laurent Schwartz won the Fields medal in 1950. The following is an excerpt from his autobiography, A Mathematician Grappling With His Century (2001).
I was always deeply uncertain about my own intellectual capacity; I thought I was unintelligent. And it is true that I was, and still am, rather slow. I need time to seize things because I always need to understand them fully. Even when I was the first to answer the teacher’s questions, I knew it was because they happened to be questions to which I already knew the answer. But if a new question arose, usually students who weren’t as good as I was answered before me. Towards the end of the eleventh grade, I secretly thought of myself as stupid. I worried about this for a long time. Not only did I believe I was stupid, but I couldn’t understand the contradiction between this stupidity and my good grades. I never talked about this to anyone, but I always felt convinced that my imposture would someday be revealed: the whole world and myself would finally see that what looked like intelligence was really just an illusion. If this ever happened, apparently no one noticed it, and I’m still just as slow. (…) At the end of the eleventh grade, I took the measure of the situation, and came to the conclusion that rapidity doesn’t have a precise relation to intelligence. What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other. This is where intelligence lies. The fact of being quick or slow isn’t really relevant. Naturally, it’s helpful to be quick, like it is to have a good memory. But it’s neither necessary nor sufficient for intellectual success.
I’m a girl of nearly fourteen years traveling to Edward Blood Island to meet my father. Until recently, I falsely believed he was dead. My aunt tells me I was protected from the truth but I feel betrayed. Though I may learn what really happened to my father, the reminders of the years with him I lost, will only bring me more sadness. Welcome to Trace Memory a mystery adventure title for the Nintendo DS. The game is text heavy, mostly dialogue, that keeps me engaged in the mysteries on the island. Solving simple puzzles moves me from one area to the next with opportunities to backtrack. Just when I begin to think Trace Memory is too easy, I find myself stuck just inside the mansion with no idea how to progress further. Before I become too frustrated, I return to the previous area and suddenly see the solution. I’m on track again and that feels good but I wonder if the puzzles will be difficult going forward. And if they are, am I curious enough about the island mysteries to stay persistent and solve them?
Challenge: Some children misperceive the equal sign as an instruction to compute rather than understanding the equal sign as a symbol that shows two expressions have the same value. These children will often place a 5 in the blank when given 2 + 3 = _ + 4. Practice with addition facts may actually strengthen this misconception if children are repeatedly given left to right “4 plus 2 makes 6” formatted facts. This can become a significant stumbling block in a child’s development of algebraic reasoning.
How to Address
Explicitly teach the equal sign means “the same value as.” In lower grades you may say, “6 marbles is the same as 4 marbles and 2 marbles.”
Do not use the input-output model to describe equations. Numbers are not placed into a machine with the answer spit out. 5 plus 4 does not “make” 9.
Use a variety equation formats. For example: 3 = 5 – 2 or 9 = 9 or 2 + 6 = 10 – 2
Have children represent a variety of equations with concrete objects.
Have children solve for unknowns in equations such as 8 + _ = 3 + 9.
Source: Teaching the Meaning of the Equal Sign to Children with Learning Disabilities: Moving from Concrete to Abstractions by Ruth Beatty and Joan Moss at the University of Toronto. Published in The Learning of Mathematics, NCTM’s 69th Yearbook, 2007.
This 25-page picture book (1985) presents a mystery that reveals the origin of Queen Marlena and three of Skeletor’s evil henchmen. The reader can solve part of the mystery by decoding these names written as anagrams: Nyvelli, Abstanem and Potskril. These three and Queen Marlena are from a planet far from Eternia (which happens to be Earth). They were traveling in a spaceship and fell into a “portal” leading to Eternia. Marlena was rescued by King Randor and became his wife. The other three, Evelyn Powers, Biff Beastman and Dr. Scope joined the evil side and were transformed into Evil-Lyn, Beast Man and Tri-Klops, respectively.
Golden Sword of Dragonwalk is a Twistaplot gamebook by the prolific R. L. Stine. It was published in 1983, nine years before Stine’s Goosebumps series began. I sped through the first few choices, skim reading and this was the end of my pathway:
“In a few days, Grandma Carmen’s once quiet neighborhood is overrun by evil. Dragons roam the sidewalks, chewing up the hedges and swallowing pedestrians whole. Sorcerers change babies into toads…” (18)
Well yes, only children and rather silly adults would enjoy such nonsense. Being rather silly myself, I started again from the beginning. On page 5, I find a Morton’s Fork with one choice sending you directly to page 8 and the other having you read page 11 before sending you to the same page 8. You then have to choose which order you will fight the big dragon, middle dragon and little dragon. Six paths to choose from. Here are my choices and their results in the order I chose them.
middle, big, little – I’m DEAD but it seemed to give a clue to fight the big one first, so I try again.
big, middle, little – I’m DEAD but the wizard says never fight the big one first. Sigh.
little, big, middle – I kill the little one. I kill the big one. Then this happens:
“… the look in the dragon’s eyes is not one of anger, but of grief. With its two companions gone, the middle dragon has lost all its fight. It offers no resistance as you plunge the Golden Sword through its heart.” (29)