SARASOTA, Fla. (Nov. 10, 2015) – Math doesn’t need to be rote memorization but can fire imaginations and even be fun, says Dr. Patricia Hunsader, associate professor of elementary education at USF Sarasota-Manatee.
That’s not just theory. Dr. Hunsader and a group of USFSM students are set to visit Bay Haven School of Basics Plus on Friday to help dispel negative stereotypes about math.
Their visit is a part of “Magical Math Connections Day,” a once-a-year event in which USFSM students engage in math-related games and activities with Bay Haven students. By imparting basic mathematical concepts through age-appropriate games, the youngsters are taught that learning important math skills can be fun.
USFSM students developed the standards-based games over the past few weeks and will oversee the activities, which are designed to appeal to K-2 students.
“The kids love it,” Dr. Hunsader said. “They see it as a break from their regular routine. It’s a day where they can see math as fun and meaningful.”
The event marks the third annual Magical Math Connections Day at Bay Haven, a Sarasota-based K-5 public school. Bay Haven Principal Chad Erickson said he supports the event because it imparts a vital message during a key developmental phase, just as the youngsters are learning basic mathematical concepts.
Through the use of objects, including cards and plastic toys, the students learn about counting, place value and addition and subtraction.
“This event is a critical part of learning new math skills, and (in this instance) the students learn that learning new math skills can be fun,” said Erickson. “All the math games are created by the USFSM students and will be laminated and left for our teachers to use them once they are done.”
Among the games is “Feed the Froggy.” For this game, the students draw Popsicle sticks that contain instruction for how many plastic bugs to take to feed the froggy. As players add and subtract bugs from their playing boards, they create number sentences. The first player with enough bugs to fill 20 spaces on a board wins.
However, the students’ computational skills are challenged – and the game heats up – when players are directed to remove a certain number of bugs from one player’s board and place them onto their own or another player’s board.
For some of Dr. Hunsader’s education students – future teachers – Friday’s event could represent their first opportunity directing a class of young students. Bay Haven teachers will supervise and take notes for feedback later, but for the most part the USFSM students will be on their own.
“I can see situations where our students really have an opportunity to practice their teaching skills,” Dr. Hunsader said. “They’ll have to do their best to explain to the kids how the games work and keep them focused on the activities and the math behind them.”
She added that she’ll be watching closely to see whether some youngsters lose interest in the activities, or struggle with the mathematics, and how well the USFSM students respond.
In other cases, the students might be taxed by overly excited youngsters, in which case they might be challenged to calm the group and keep it focused.
“We want the kids to be engaged and we want them to pay attention,” Dr. Hunsader said. “For me, this is serious business. This is about teaching and learning math and they have to keep everybody engaged the entire time.”