Math mania for 4th and 5th grade
Mission Statement: We will invite community members into the school to inspire a passion for math in elementary students by working in small groups on hands on math projects, math games and multi step problems. Activities will stress creative problem solving and strategy, with the primary purpose of increasing out of the box thinking and risk taking.
Math Mania
Description of project or program
This grant will be used to start an after school math club, Math Mania, to enhance the fourth and fifth grade math curriculum at St. Mark Catholic School. The club will be organized primarily by the LEAP (Learning Enrichment Academic Program) teacher. The LEAP teacher currently teaches higher level problem solving strategies in a pull out math program for students who have tested out of the regular math curriculum. Math Mania will have similar higher level problem solving activities but will be available to all fourth and fifth grade students at the school.
We will invite parent volunteers and teens from the local high school math club into the school to inspire a passion for math in elementary students by working in small groups on hands on math projects, math games and multi step problems. Activities will stress creative problem solving and strategy, with the primary purpose of increasing out of the box thinking and risk taking.
Learning Objectives:
Improving math computation and increasing communication are two identified goals of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) review. The math club will assist the school in reaching these goals by introducing higher level problem solving skills to all fourth and fifth grade students in a fun and educational forum run by parent and community volunteers.
The club’s curriculum would be provided by the LEAP teacher who is certified in Special Education and pursuing both an addon license in gifted education and also a Masters Degree in Gifted Education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The small groups, or centers, would be led by volunteers. The organization of the club would be shared equally by the parent volunteers, teen volunteers and the LEAP teacher. The purpose of this sharing responsibility is to draw parents into the school to be a part of improving their children’s math education on site.
The School Improvement Plan (SIP) which was put into place in School Year 2005/2006 includes a specific plan to improve student math computation scores on Iowa Test of Basic Skills by 2 percentage points. Although all of the average test scores for the students at St. Mark Catholic School are well above average, the math computation scores consistently lag slightly behind the school average for other math skills.
A math club would be beneficial to the students by adding an additional 45 minutes of hands on, supervised math practice to their current curriculum time every week. Within each of the small centers, the students will focus on honing a single particular skill. With each skill some sort of basic calculations are involved, as well as direct instruction on problem solving strategies. Both mental math and written computation on white boards will be necessary to complete all of the activities.
The extra math practice will be offered within the context of games and hands on activities that promote curiosity and risk taking. Because the number of students at each of the centers is relatively small, there is ample adult support for students of all ability levels. The underlying message will be that problem solving can be fun as well as challenging, with no risk taking since the members of the small groups will be working together to solve problems..
Population served
There are 180 fourth and fifth graders at St. Mark Catholic School. The proposed program will be open to all students in these two grades. These two grades were chosen because presently there is a pull out program for fourth and fifth graders who are identified by pretests as above grade level in math, and we want to offer the same higher level problem solving skills to all students, regardless of math ability.
Overall Goals and Objectives
Financial support will assure that the appropriate materials will be available for reaching all kinds of learning styles. There will be white boards with markers, colorful board games, bingo cards, manipulatives for math computation, small prizes, and snacks for after school volunteers. The purpose of these extra materials is to utilize novelty and games to motivate students and make learning new math skills fun. There will be no worksheets. All computation will be completed on white boards with colored EXPO markers and miniature student size white board erasers.
Providing a risk free forum to have fun and socialize with friends while practicing math skills will give students more practice and more skills in a casual unstructured atmosphere.
Inviting parent volunteers will give parents a chance to come into the school and participate in the on site education process.
Inviting high school teen community volunteers from the Mallard Creek Honors Math Club (Mu Alpha Theta) will provide positive mentors for students, who will hopefully perceive math as a “cool” subject. The club will also provide the high school students with community service points. Math tutoring is a requirement for high school and college participants in Mu Alpha Theta.
Project Evaluation – Measure of Success
Number of participants
Number of volunteers
Drawing equal numbers of boys and girls
Mid year and end of year surveys
Feedback from students
Program Retention
Once this program is under way we will document the progress of the club, what materials we used, and how the centers worked best so that this club can be implemented at other schools. At this level, our program is less competitive because these are elementary age children, and the purpose is to instill a love of mathematics. However, we hope that the students who come to the math club in fourth and fifth grade will continue their interest into middle school. Starting in sixth grade they can join a national club called Math Counts where student teams from each school compete on the county level, and winning teams go up to compete in the state finals.
Budget: $1,000
1. Board games  Equate, Math Bingo, Blokus, What’s the Point?, “24” game, http://www.educationallearninggames.com/mathgames.asp 2. Math manipulatives – 3D geometric shapes for volume, reflection mirror lab, fraction bars. 3. Origami paper

$500 
Small Prizes for students, treats for volunteers lollipops for bingo game rewards for the students, pastries and drinks for the high school volunteers coming after school. 
$150 
End of year party – pizza and cake 
$100 
Field trip to Math Counts final competition 
$250 
Mission Statement: We will invite community members into the school to inspire a passion for math in elementary students by working in small groups on hands on math projects, math games and multi step problems. Activities will stress creative problem solving and strategy, with the primary purpose of increasing out of the box thinking and risk taking.
There are six specific themes in conducting this math club that follow research based practice: (1) using hands on manipulatives, (2)increasing motivation by using games to stress math concepts, (3) small group instruction, (4) math mentoring, (5) risk free learning (no testing), (6) and peer tutoring.
Hands on Manipulatives
Although there are many different learning styles and ability levels that students bring into the classroom, all students can benefit from learning a math concept by seeing and touching objects that represent numbers and concepts. For example, Hands on Equations, created by Borenson and Associates, Inc. is a game with colorful pieces and dice that represent the parts of algebra equations, and goes from very simple levels to very complex. Students as young as third grade can easily grasp the rules of the game and go at their own pace. These simple manipulatives make it possible for very young students to be exposed to complex problem solving strategies that they will reencounter in middle school.
Motivation
Increasing motivation can not stand alone as a theme in increasing math skills because it is interrelated with so many other factors. But in writing the mission statement of the club, we felt that it was important to recognize that some students feel that the lecture/workbook process of teaching math is not enough to stimulate real interest and curiosity, and that the overall purpose of the club was to improve motivation so that students will willingly take time to practice math skills willingly. Very simply, we wanted to instill excitement about math. From this concept, we developed specific ways in which we felt students would perceive math as fun, including adding social features such as spending time with friends and enjoying the attention of older high school students.
Small group instruction
The nature of the LEAP teacher’s job entails that she pulls out small groups of gifted students from their math classroom to do higher level activities in a separate settings. Although the nature of the activities for these gifted students was certainly a factor in keeping the challenged, an unexpected positive result also came from putting students in a small setting where they can explore ideas in a group. Because of the small numbers, we could relax the normal protocol of the classroom setting, by allowing a certain amount of uncontrolled discussion among the students. Students became better problem solvers when they were working in groups, feeding off each other’s strengths, and helping to minimize individual weaknesses.
We decided to incorporate the small group instruction facet for this very reason. We wanted the lower performing students to have a chance to work with higher level students and listen to them “think out loud”. A natural order of peer tutoring developed, with the students who understood difficult concepts explaining their thinking out loud, and modeling good problem solving strategies. The drawback to small groups is that there was much effort that went into making sure there were enough volunteers available to work with each group. This was solved by the next big concept: Math mentoring.
Math Mentoring
Students who join the math club in high school, Mu Alpha Theta, are required to perform a certain number of hours of community service. Usually, the students are assigned to work in low performing high schools or middle, otherwise designated as their sister schools. However, they are free to tutor anywhere they choose as long as it is documented that they are tutoring in some capacity in the area of math. We took advantage of the community service requirement by offering our math club as an opportunity to help elementary students. The high school students are screened and trained. We will make sure that there is always an adult in the room when the high school students are volunteering, and enforced a no contact rule. High school students are not allowed to babysit or tutor the math club students, or contact them directly in any way.
Risk Free Learning Environment
Math test anxiety is a common complaint that is well documented as a real detriment to learning success. There are no worksheets in the math club, no graded work, and no documentation of right and wrong answers. Students are encouraged to work in groups and help each other. Students who need extra support are discretely paired with teen volunteers, or placed in groups with other students who can peer mentor.
Although some of the games entail winning and losing, the playing field is leveled when all the students are working together on tough problems. For example, in the Equate game, students are required to make a problem with their seven tiles. After a certain amount of time, the student turns the tiles to his friends and they all work on making a play. The competitive nature of the students who are good at math helps in this case; they want to make a good play even though the points are for another player.
Peer Tutoring
Within each group, there will be various levels of math ability. We decided to capitalize on this natural variation by making each project a group project, and lessening the competitive nature of the games by rearranging some rules. Students are encouraged to work together to find answers, and taught to help their neighbors without giving simply answers. Volunteers are strategically placed so that there is one adult guiding the activity, and one adult helping students who need extra help. There is concept of testing, so therefore no concept of cheating. Students are encouraged to check their answers with their peers, and discuss discrepancies.
References:
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Bucknavage, L.B. & Worrel, F.C. (2005) A study of academically talented students’
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DeGeorge, B. & Santoro, A. (2004) Manipulatives: A hands on approach to math.
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Papanastasiou, E.C. & Bottiger, L. (2004) Math clubs and their potentials: making
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