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Math Flies
Off the Shelf


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Cereal and soup labels are the recipe for improved skills in an event called "Math Off the Shelf." Angie Rabie, a Title I ESL parent involvement facilitator at Langley Elementary School in Hampton, Virginia, uses the program to teach parents how they can make the most of "teachable moments" in supermarkets and at home in the kitchen.

Parents and kids take a hands-on approach to improving math skills with "Math Off the Shelf" workshops.

"I developed this workshop as a classroom teacher a few years ago," recalled Rabie. "It occurred to me that there are many opportunities for parents to reinforce math skills at home during everyday activities using items commonly found in their kitchen."

With the help of her mother, who is also an educator, Rabie developed ways for children in kindergarten through fifth grade to reinforce math skills at home. She carried the activity with her into a new role as parent involvement facilitator and found it to be a perfect fit.

"What impressed me the most about the event was the ability for parents to take the ideas presented to them and think of other activities they could do as well," she explained.

The experience of using common household goods to explore math has had other unexpected outcomes. One child who spoke limited English was able to teach his parents an unfamiliar concept by using pantry items presented during the workshop. Rabie's use of concrete materials make moments like this possible, and it is a practice she recommends to others who hold events like "Math Off the Shelf."

Participants say they are pleased to learn new ways to educate their children while they do their "usual" activities, like shopping, cooking, and more.
"Do not just talk about the concepts and give the information in written form," Rabie advised. "For example, don't just talk about using Froot Loops to reinforce patterns, sorting, and graphing; have Froot Loops on the day of the workshop and have parents and children actually do the activities together."

Since the inception of the workshop, teachers have become increasingly involved and committed to the program. Now Rabie's peers who teach math join her in planning and implementing it. The materials have been translated into Spanish so that all attendees can follow along.

"Future improvements include breaking parents into groups based on grade levels instead of having all parents combined together," added Rabie. "That will allow parents to see more activities specific to the grade levels of their children."

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