Brooklyn Brainery – “Get into stuff!”

A few weeks ago, walking through my neighborhood, I saw a totally awesome little place called Brooklyn Brainery. (cool name right?) I was intrigued by the painted-on chalkboards and the homemade shelves full of things like Rubiks’ cubes, cook books, paint brushes, and other tools for doing. My focus really locked in when I saw a copy of Hofstadter’s Godel, Escher, Bach sitting there. These are my kind of people.

Looking over their about page, I grew completely ecstatic. Have a read.

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Brooklyn Brainery is accessible, community-driven, crowdsourced education.

We host cheap classes on anything and everything. All of our course topics are dreamed up and suggested by you, and our teachers are a group of awesome people from around Brooklyn and the whole city. Anyone can teach–you just need a passion for the topic and a desire to share it with others.

Teaching at the Brainery isn’t about being a world-reknown expert on a topic, it’s just about being excited to help people learn the things you’re already excited about.

* * *

Does that not sound amazing!? If you’ve read this post, for instance, then I shouldn’t have to explain the kind of raw power and bursting potential energy in a room full of interested, self-placed people.

I think they’re very right about what you need to teach, and the decor reminds me, learning can happen anywhere you want to be. I am thrilled by the sharing of knowledge and excitement, so this is obviously right up my alley. I also love that it gives people the tools, community, and motivation that will get them doing things they want to get better at. Here’s a few courses I’m thinking of teaching. Wanna take one?

How to Count | Juggling and Math | Imaginary Numbers | The Game of Diplomacy | Helping your kid do math

For “How to Count” I’m envisioning 3-sessions starting with reimagining numbers in the context of binary arithmetic and elementary delights. The second night, we dig into some great counting problems and explore combinatorics together. We’ll spend our final session expanding our number concept into the “imaginary numbers” and take a close look at sizes of infinity.

Who’s in?

* * *

Personal learning like this is exactly what I was pushing for at Saint Ann’s and is now in place in our high school electives program.

Starting in Algebra 1, students pick one of two offerings for the required sequence, deciding between different approaches to the course content. In Algebra 2, for example, we have an Analytic Geometry course as well as Functions and Abstract Algebra. After this (and potentially during) students may choose from a bevy of electives, like Trig/Analysis, Modern Algebra, Number Theory, Intro Topology, The Complex Plane, and Fractals and Chaos. We even have a Calculus course you can take after Algebra 2. Many of these courses are semester length, which opens up the panoramic view of mathematics for our students to view and take part in.

Most of my classes felt a little flat today, but the students in my Complex Plane class were still bought in. They’ve been seriously digging it each day – I swear we’ve been enjoying multiplication for a week. You might be thinking, “come on! These students chose this class, so obviously they’re going to be more into it than usual.” But that’s exactly the point! These kids are invested and active by design. Math (and just about everything else) feels really good when it connects with your identity and free will. This is what choice is all about, and I’m so happy to be a part of it this year.

I’ll keep you posted. We’ll see how it goes.

Follow @bkbrains on Twitter.

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