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Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Pine Tar and Pine Bugs: Adventures in Stream of Consciousness

I live with someone so interested in baseball that he has achieved near-Ken Burns-like baseball historian status. Earlier today, we were discussing that baseball statistics might form a really great background to teaching kids fractions and decimal points. Jeff mentioned that it might not work because, by the time school is in session, baseball season is nearly over. I rejoined that it wouldn't be a problem -- you could pick a historical season of baseball, say 1957, and just pretend every game was being played daily as the school year wore on, and have the kids update their batting averages, etc. He suggested that 1983 would be a good year...

and then he told me why! The Pine Tar Incident (video here, exhaustive wiki here). Now you can teach your imaginary third graders not only math, but legal reasoning. Divvy the class into pro-and-anti-pine tar rule groups and have them debate the matter until they're hoarse. You can then finish them off with a round of baseball-themed literature: there's plenty. I fail to see how your baseball-themed classroom (although perhaps not No Child Left Behind-compliant, with its awesome disregard for testable results) will not leave your students smarter and more savvy. I certainly think my own appreciation of fractions (which languished, sadly, beyond its appointed date) would have proceeded apace if married to the semi-practical art of determining On-Base Percentages and allowed to flourish alongside poems celebrating the crack of the bat, etcetera.

Alas, as a child, I had no knowledge or interest of baseballs, pine-tar, etc. The closest I came was getting bit all over by mites living in a shipment of pinestraw delivered to my house for bedding shrubs. As it turns out, after you've been bit by about 3000 pine mites, you develop a slight fever and a number of wee red, round lesions that look a bit like chicken pox. Or measles. Or smallpox. Or any number of little-diagnosed tropical ailments. It was a fun week for everyone! (I was just fine after a little benadryl.)

posted by Reen |link| 0 comments

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