Math learning extends beyond the school day

Math learning extends beyond the school day

Some valuable instructional opportunities take place away from the regular classroom. Here are just a few examples of ways our schools go above and beyond the regular school day to reinforce math skills.

Evening events share math with families
Around the county, on any given week night, you just might find a group of children and their parents playing. . . and learning… at school. Local schools regularly offer evening programs for families that highlight curriculum areas and showcase student work and talents.

At one recent Math Night at Corley Elementary, more than 100 parents and their students gathered together to learn some games that they can play at home to boost math skills. Using playing cards, hundreds boards, and number lines, parents and students beefed up their understanding of number sense and basic facts.

“It’s important that parents foster an enthusiasm for math in the home,” says Paula Cobb, Corley Elementary principal. “The encouragement from home will transfer a love of math into the classroom.”

For many parents, it’s just been too many years since they used the math skills that their children are learning and practicing in today’s classrooms. That’s where math nights like the one at Corley Elementary can benefit both parent and child.

“The earlier we can help students think and work flexibly with numbers, the sooner they will be able to make connections with more advanced math skills,” says Ms. Cobb. “This success will help build confidence in math and will decrease the phobias that many adults and students have about math.”

Watch for opportunities at your child’s school to participate in curriculum showcase events and PTA evenings where you can learn more about what your child’s learning at school. If you’d like to try your hand at some of the math games participants played at the Corley event, click here.

Saturday camps boost skills
Benchmark assessments are like a doctor’s diagnostic tests. Reading the results, teachers identify a student’s academic weaknesses and prescribe a course of action for improvement. Saturday Skills Camps at Pinckneyville Middle can be just what the doctor ordered for students who need an academic booster shot for specific math skills.

During the weekend sessions, teachers at the school work with students who have been invited to participate to the program, which is available for grades 6-8. Some students get the boost they need in one Saturday session, while others may choose to attend two or more Saturdays. Since beginning last fall, the Saturday Skills Camps have averaged 100 students each session. Dr. Michael Zinn coordinates the program.

“The strategies that our teachers use are always a little different than what might be used in a traditional classroom setting, says Melanie Amos, an assistant principal at Pinckneyville Middle. “The teachers make extensive use of technology, including computer programs and SmartBoards. They also use games and manipulatives.”

Ms. Amos notes that Saturday sessions focused on math and writing in the fall. This winter, participants have worked on the skills to be tested on the state’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs) in April.

Teachers invite students to attend the Saturday Skills Camp, based on data collected in benchmark and unit assessments. The data shows areas of academic weakness that students can improve with additional practice and help on the targeted AKS (Academic Knowledge and Skills) curriculum areas.

“One of the most important aspects of Saturday Skills Camps is that the sessions provide on-time interventions for areas of identified weakness,” says Ms. Amos. “In Skills Camps, students are working on AKS that currently are being taught in the classroom at this time, skills that are necessary for success during a particular quarter. By focusing on AKS that the students are currently having trouble mastering, we’ve found it’s an effective way to intervene before students have an unsuccessful quarter.”

Ms. Amos reports that teachers, parents, and students are all roundly enthusiastic about the program, and students ask to be invited back. While some of the camps focus on students who might not be successful on the CRCT without additional interventions, Ms. Amos notes that some Saturday sessions also focus on helping more students move from meeting expectations (CRCT Level 2) to exceeding those expectations (Level 3).

After school program targets students for excellence
For a group of 30 or so Norcross Elementary students, an after-school option supports their learning as they strive for excellence. MARS Kids Club, which stands for Math And Reading Smart Kids Club, is part of the Homework Center sponsored by Scana Energy, a business partner.

The participating students— all 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders— met expectations on the CRCT assessments the previous spring. With the additional support, these students are aiming for the stars, with plans to exceed state standards on the CRCT this spring.

Three days a week, in two-hour sessions, students focus on key math and language arts skills, using advanced strategies, technology, games, and more. In addition, in the evenings and on weekends, the children participate in special events and field trips that support their learning.

Involved parents are part of the equation, says Assistant Principal Eve Hunter who works with Teachers Laurie Demoff and Robert Fortenbery in the program. Parents are invited to participate in the field trips and community service projects with their children. The Club’s teacher-sponsors also have contact with parents each day at pick-up time, so they have an opportunity to give immediate feedback to parents about their child’s progress.

While the children and their parents love the club, they’re not the only fans says Ms. Hunter. Classroom teachers report that students participating in the club are flying high academically with the extra lift they get in MARS Kids Club.

Digital learning supports math achievement
Click here to read about two computer-based programs— SuccessMaker and Destination Math— that support K-8 math achievement in Gwinnett. Both programs are supplemental offerings during the school day. However, both allow for at-home use as well.