Family + games = fun
Cassie Green helps her children prepare their math games. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
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By Jet Burnham | email@example.com
Parents are often willing but unsure how to help their children learn math concepts, said Natalie Newbold. She is a third grade teacher at Terra Linda Elementary where parents and students were invited to Math Night on Feb. 16. It was an opportunity for teachers to share game ideas as a way for parents to help their children master difficult math concepts.
“Everyone works together to give the child the best chance of success,” said Newbold
Parents attended sessions in each of their children’s classrooms to be instructed in games they can play with their children to strengthen math skills at home.
Students are more open to practicing math if it is in the form of a game said Lindsay Curtis, who teaches fourth grade.
“They don't focus on the math side, which brings down the wall they've built up towards math. This makes math a little easier for those that struggle,” said Curtis.
Newbold described her third graders’ negative reaction to math.
“Even the thought of doing math in my classroom is brought with moans, groans and sudden needs for bathroom breaks,” she said. She meets this attitude by incorporating games into lessons.
“I love using games to teach because it tricks students into learning. They don't realize they are learning and mastering concepts because they are having too much fun,” she said.
Newbold said using manipulatives, something tangible, helps kids see math concepts in a different way.
Principal Karen Gorringe believes using manipulatives strengthens learning.
“The more senses you can use, the better able the students grasp the concepts,” she said.
Math Night was simple to plan; teachers in each grade chose a game that practiced a skill specific to their curriculum. Parents spent the evening learning the game with their children.
First grade teacher Valene Gurney said her team developed a game that focused on what they are teaching right now—three-digit addition. Students used plastic disks to mark off sums on a printed game board.
Sophie Rond and her classmates were given a bag of colorful pipe cleaners and beads by their second grade teachers. This activity allowed students to visualize the relationship between numbers. Following a worksheet of subtraction, students would slide the total number of beads onto opposite ends, seeing the relationship between the two values.
For fifth graders, teachers provided a deck of cards and a list of variations on the card game War. To practice math facts, players multiplied the numbers on the cards that were turned over. To practice fractions, each player flipped over two cards to make a fraction. Players then compared the fractions, determining which was greater in value.
Parent Cassie Green said Math Night was a good activity to get her two kids involved with math in a fun way. She helped her kindergartener create a number-matching game which he cut out and decorated with stickers.
Fourth graders and their families played the game of Farkle. Richard Worthen was enthusiastic about being score-keeper while playing the game with his dad. He practiced large number addition as he added up numbers on the rolled dice and then totaled each round’s scores.
“I could tell the families were having fun playing together, and they were really getting into the game,” said Curtis.
Math Night had a modest turn-out, but the feedback was positive, said Gurney.
“Those that came enjoyed it,” said Gurney. “Most stayed the whole hour. I was surprised they stayed entertained for the whole hour.”
Other teachers noticed the same thing— those who came, stayed and played.
“The parents seemed just as excited to be playing with their students,” said Newbold.
Office aides and secretaries compiled the 675 kits with materials requested by the teachers, using a budget from the school’s Community Council fundraiser. The games were sent home the next day with students who didn’t attend the activity, said Gurney.
Gorringe feels the night was a success and plans for an even better one next year.
“Our goal is to improve the students’ math skills and create a community where all are responsible for student learning,” said Gorringe.