Thursday, March 5, 2009

Two Vaguely Related Things

By Ruth (but then, you would have guessed that very quickly...)

Part 1 – Playing Cards

I use playing cards in class to divide students into groups. It works really well because there are enough for all my students and groups of four usually work pretty well. Enough to make it a little interesting but still small enough that everybody needs to talk.

The first time I start passing out cards, they get excited. Fifteen times later, I don’t even have to explain what to do. Sometimes they groan if they are those students who don’t like a) standing up, b) talking to anyone besides their best friend, c) talking, and/or d) being in class. Mostly though, they enjoy the few moments of utter chaos as they yell at each other and wave their cards around and make their way to the other side of the room.

Since I use them in about every other class, the cards get pretty beat up. I collected the cards back the other day and noticed someone had drawn their own hearts on the ten of hearts. Sometimes they get lost, too. The other day a sophomore came up to me after class all embarrassed and said, “Last week I accidentally took the seven card because I put it in my pocket. Can I bring it back to you tomorrow?” Just before my class the next day, the girl knocked hesitantly on the classroom door. When I opened it she whispered, “I come to bring you the card.” Turning her body away so the other students couldn’t see she slipped the card into my hand then ducked away. It was funny. It really wasn’t a problem, but she was so embarrassed.

Part 2 – The Colored Number Phenomenon

This is related but you probably won’t be able to tell it at first.

I have this thing where I see numbers as colors. I didn’t consciously realize it until high school or college. Or rather, I should say, I didn’t realize that everyone else doesn’t see numbers as colors. This year I was delighted to discover this is actually a legitimate phenomenon called “synesthesia.” Wikipedia calls it “a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” Makes sense, huh?

Thinking of numbers as being inherently colored is one of the more common forms. Some people also see numbers, days of the week, or months of the year as having certain personalities. I do that too, with numbers. One of the most interesting forms, in my opinion, is associating a certain taste with different sounds or words. I don’t do that, so I don’t really know how it works. There is no “standard” for color-number association, it varies by person, however it is consistent with a person over time. So here is what it looks like for me:

Number - Color - Personality

1 – White

2 – Light blue - youthful

3- Yellow – sweet and girly (and named Lillian…that I can’t explain)

4 – Purple – quiet and shy

5 – Green – friendly and outgoing

6 – Dark blue – motherly, caring

7 – Orange vivacious, crazy, and a little annoying

8 – Maroon - responsible, organized

9 – Brown – kinda boring and not very easy to get along with

I’m not sure that one has a personality. It’s so good and quiet it just blends into the woodwork, if you know what I mean. Some of the personalities are more related to the colors, but some purely numerical. Who doesn’t like a good 5? Fits in anywhere, works well with others. 9, on the other hand, just has to make thing difficult. Some of the personalities are definitely related to the colored pencils I used to play with as a child. The light blue was short and therefore one of the younger ones that dark blue helped to take care of. Brown was practically unused and didn’t fit in very well. The purple pencil was about eight years old and probably the one I identified with most. I did have real toys, I really did, but I think my colored pencils had more personalities than my dolls ever did.

Ok, now that I’ve thoroughly lost you, let’s bring this back around to the beginning in a nice segue.

Part 3: The Segue

So the other day in class I had passed out the cards and students were looking for their other group members. I came upon a student with a three of hearts and said, “Ok, well you have a yellow so let’s look for the others.” Then I laughed at myself because while I confuse them in my head sometimes, I rarely confuse colors and numbers out loud unless I have recently been explaining this phenomenon to someone. It didn’t really matter though. It went right over the student’s head into the box of “things my foreign teacher says that I don’t understand.” It’s a big box.

And there you go. It is sort of related. At least in my head, it was related. But then, so are colors and numbers and personalities and a lot of things that make no sense to other people. So probably it's not related at all. Just an attempt to make the things in my head seem connected to the outside world. I wonder what ever happened to that colored pencil family?


Anna said...

Thank you for making me laugh after very little sleep and having an exam in a very short period of time. I think we all have a propensity to use some intimate objects as people. One of my friends had this collection of Hot Wheels cars and when she was a kid she used to think that they were patients in a mental hospital and she would put them in their own little rooms, treat them, etc. The coloured pencil family still makes me laugh though. =) Oh, and while I don't associate colours with numbers, I do tend to think of random things (aka. most everything) with personalities or having emotional qualities attached to them.

Molly J. said... It made for great morning-snack-time-should-be-lesson-planning-in-my-planning-period reading

sarita said...

I was just talking about this phenomenon with my Aunt! I was amazed this is actually done and then (for fun) tried to think of colors I would assign to fun that I know someone who really does this! You're awesome!


Candy said...

I could have made math a lot more fun if I had known about the color thing when you were younger. It is a good thing that we didn't use Cuisenaire Rods because their colors were different than yours. I know some were red and you don't have a red. Why don't you have a red? That is a bold, exciting color. How about 12 for red?
I don't relate to colors for numbers, but I do see personalities in lots of things -- plants, toys, foods, etc. :-)

jessica.ellen said...

I hope that you write a book some day. I would certainly buy it!

*This also just reminded me of the three small ornamental Christmas trees that my mom used to put on our mantel. I used to play with them for hours because, to me, they seemed like kittens, and I loved kittens. I also remember pretending that those bags of popcorn seeds (the ones that are similar to bags of rice) were kittens. One day I was sitting on the counter at the grocery checkout line and I had a bag of popcorn seeds in my lap...and I think I may have been petting the bag. The bagger looked at me, smiled, and said, "You must like popcorn." I remember being surprised and thinking, "No, silly, I like kittens."

Katie Bodell said...

Ok, Ruth. While I now believe you to be partly crazy, I also think you are incredibly humorous :)
Thanks for sharing :)