How many spiders and insects could you make if you were given five play dough “bodies” and forty pipe cleaner “legs”?
This was just one of the many questions posed by the GVSU Mathematics Department students who helped to facilitate Rosewood’s “Family Math Fun Night” this past Tuesday. Grand Valley students currently enrolled in Math for Elementary Teachers, along with Professor Pam Wells, organized the night to offer opportunities for practical application of the concepts they’ve been polishing in class.
Peter Rau and Chelsea Henrizi were two of Professor Wells’ students assisting at a table with abacuses. Peter summarized the goal of the night was to “set up a math event that would engage children of all ages and include extensions for those farther along with their math skills, all while keeping it fun.”
Chelsea, a visually impaired student, shared that using math manipulatives has opened a whole new world for her. She credits Professor Wells with going above and beyond to make accommodations for her and make math come alive.
“As a blind student myself, I’ve always loved doing math with my hands. It’s helped me to understand concepts from basic adding and subracting to data and probability. I’d love to work with blind children because I didn’t get proper adaptations growing up. I’d like to change that for others.”
Students of all grade and ability levels swarmed to one of the dozen tables to dive into games involving everything from geoboards to polygons.
Parents like Heather Noah said that her family reads a lot, but they don’t often spend extra time on math. Rosewood’s Family Math Fun Night gave them the opportunity to work together on concepts her daughter is learning in class. “We’re excited to be here!” she said.
Others like Kristin Graham were excited to see their children engaged and enthusiastic. “I think it’s good for kids to keep learning fun,” she shared.
But fun is only part of it. Professor Wells wants to encourage kids to math with their families much like they already read with their families. Furthermore, she hopes her GVSU students make strides as the next generation of elementary teachers.
“I really want my students to go out the door confident in their mathematics capabilities — really understanding the concepts. Most of them think about how they learned math and we want to relearn it and unpack it. We’re training them to think about math from a teacher’s perspective instead of from a learner’s perspective.”
Math Nights like the one at Rosewood provide a way for Jenison kids to re-connect with old concepts, learn new strategies, and engage students around academics with their parents outside of the traditional school day.
If you were able to attend this event, what was your favorite part? Please leave a comment below!