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Literature and Math Converge in Storyville!


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After working with teachers who took part in successful Web-based projects, technology facilitators Marguerite Miller and Carol Ann Hennessy of East Islip, New York, joined forces to create their own online project! Seeking ways to actively engage students, they designed Storyville Math, an adventure in learning in which classes read books, write word problems, illustrate solutions, and calculate answers to math problems written by their peers! Included: Tips for coordinators of online projects!


"Many of the classroom teachers in our schools have enjoyed participating in online projects through the years," Carol Ann Hennessy told Education World, "so this year we decided it was time to host our own project!"

Hennessy and project partner, Marguerite Miller, knew they wanted their new project to focus on problem solving; they also wanted an activity that would bring together all the classes that participated. They decided that the best way to accomplish those goals was to make literature the heart of the project -- and Storyville Math was born!

As technology facilitators for elementary schools in the East Islip (New York) School District, Hennessy and Miller work with teachers in first through sixth grades. Their responsibilities include training teachers to use software and peripheral devices and helping them plan content-rich technology projects. The facilitators also create and maintain the school Web sites, which serve as portals for Internet use in the elementary schools.

MATH + LANGUAGE ARTS + THE INTERNET = STORYVILLE MATH

Through the Storyville Math project, classes of second grade students across the country create literature-based math word problems that are posted on the project Web site. Each week, one class's set of word problems is published along with a downloadable work sheet. An illustrated online solution to each problem also is provided.

Suggestions from Storyville

Storyville Math had such an impact on South Carolina teacher Amanda Madden and on other teachers in her district that they are considering hosting their own projects in the future. Miller and Hennessy offer these words of advice to Madden and other would-be project coordinators:

* Be organized. Good organization is the key to a successful project!

* Divide and conquer. Rather than having a single due date, consider scheduling individual due dates for each of the classes involved.

* Publish progressively. Try weekly Web postings; they make the work more manageable!

"First, the class reads a picture book," explained Hennessy. "Then the students write word problems based on the story. Next, they illustrate each word problem. Some classes use a program like Kid Pix. Others draw the illustrations on paper and scan them into the computer. Each class is highlighted for one week and its problems posted. All the work stays on the site" for the duration of the project.

Other students are invited to solve the problems featured each week. The children's favorite feature of the site is the student-created art that serves as "answer sheets" for the word problems. "I am always surprised by how well some students draw on the computer," said Hennessy. "I find that really difficult!"

According to Miller, the project has several important goals. "Students use higher order thinking skills to develop their own word problems and solve them," she said. "They demonstrate that they comprehend the story as they include details in their problems. Technology is used as a tool throughout the project -- through E-mail, Internet use, and creating digital images."

Coordinating Activities created by the participating teachers also are available on the site. Those include printable activity sheets, such as coloring pages, word scrambles, and word searches, as well as interactive crossword and jigsaw puzzles.

In addition, students can use an online feedback form to write about their experiences with the project. Those comments are posted on the Feedback page.

STORYVILLE MATH ADDS UP!

Joanne Segreto, a second-grade teacher at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in East Islip, was immediately excited about the new project and eager for her students to participate. Her class became one of the project's "founding" participants.

"It sounded like a great project," explained Segreto. "I could integrate language arts and math, work on problem solving skills with my students, and provide a site where they could see their work being used by others, and see the ideas and completed work of other students involved in similar activities."

Segreto's students are very proud of their piece of the project. They have been excited about each new story and have looked forward to seeing the math problems online and reading the feedback. Segreto has been amazed by how quickly her students follow and complete the online problems.

"With a project like this, a teacher can easily incorporate classroom instruction with a computer activity and help students become more familiar with the Internet," she said. "This is a very structured site, but there are other opportunities to explore related sites through links if you want to do more. This project makes you want to work with your students on the Internet!"

Amanda Madden discovered Storyville Math through the coordinator of another online project.

"My goals for this project were for my students to develop an appreciation for literature in the math context, to gain more practice with problem solving, and to use technology as a form of publishing their work," said Madden.

Of the nearly ten online projects her class has been involved in this year, Storyville Math has been among the most useful, Madden said. Her second graders at Brushy Creek Elementary in Taylors, South Carolina, enjoyed solving the weekly problems and were excited to see their work on the site!

"I would recommend -- and have recommended -- this project to other teachers," stated Madden. "It has been a valuable tool in my classroom; a fun way to get students motivated about problem solving."

RELATED LINKS

Mathematics Projects Visit this resource from Houghton-Mifflin to learn about current online projects featuring math activities.