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Linda Mah
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Math Night: Making Math Fun

Night Focuses on Taking Fear Out of Math

Greenwood Elementary School knows that when you add parents into the mix, learning adds up to something special.

Greenwood held its 11th annual Math Night, a celebration of counting, games, books and fun all designed to promote math skills — and help everyone feel a little more comfortable with their math facts.

Some students are a little scared of math — but then so are some parents. That’s what Greenwood staff realized several years ago. So, Math Night was designed to emphasize math as a way to have fun while bonding.

Teacher Jami Skinner organizes the event for the school.

“We’ve got it down to a science,” she said. “We’ve done various things through the years, but there are always new games. Teachers choose games based on whatever is going on with their curriculum at the time.”

The basics are always the same: There are different games in each classroom and children take home a grade-appropriate math game the next day — whether or not they were able to attend the event. In addition, there are snacks, games in the hallways and raffle prize, all math-related.

Skinner was new to the building when the former principal announced they were looking for a new family involvement activity that was fun and educational.

“It was really designed for families, not just the children,” she said. “Math can be intimidating. So many parents are hands off. A lot of parents read every night with their kids, they write thank you notes and draw pictures for grandparents. But, they say, ‘I can’t do math.’ So much of society has that mindset. We wanted to take the fear out of it.

“Math Night helps get families excited about math. The idea is to have intentional conversations about math—conversations about shapes, colors, sorting, numbers, costs and probability.”

Greenwood is a prekindergarten to third-grade school, so math tends to focus on basics such as counting and number recognition, before moving to addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions.

Skinner offered some simple fun ways for parents to incorporate math learning into family life: 1. Make it fun. There are tons of counting books and rhymes that help develop number sense, like “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.” “You want children to play with numbers and shapes,” she said. “We want them to not just count but to know that three is three.”

2. Count. She has little plastic counters that she uses to teach students about combining numbers, but “children can count anything. It’s not always about counters and fingers. It’s whatever you’ve got,” she said. Toys, socks, books. For preschoolers, the challenge can be finding matching pairs or sorting, such as matching socks, or separating toys into vehicles and stuffed animals.

3. Use your environment. The grocery store is a perfect place to spy numbers. As the children get older, they can add numbers on the grocery bill. The kitchen is another great place to incorporate math, from counting, measuring and mixing.

4. Play games. Many board games involve math skills, such as counting spaces. Children may know how to move from one space to another, but might not know how to jump four spots. In the car, they can play I Spy looking for shapes or colors.

5. Look for books with math themes. Many books involve counting or simple shapes. Have children count along with characters, identify numbers or predict mathematical outcomes or changes in a story.

6. Visit the Kalamazoo Public Schools' website. Under links, you can find student and family links, which includes links to math games, curriculum guides and videos for all students in grades prekindergarten to 12.

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