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Kids Fill Passports
With Practical Math


"I feel that when it comes to math, you need to make things as creative as you can," says Amy DeWall. "Math seems to scare parents. The more interactive and fun you can make things in relation to math, the more parents you will draw."

[content block] DeWall served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at Suring (Wisconsin) Elementary School during the 2005-2006 school year. The success of previous reading nights at the school prompted DeWall and other members of the family-school-community partnership team to design a similar math-focused event.

"Being practical and inexpensive was our goal," said DeWall. "In a small town, you can exhaust the businesses very quickly when asking for donations, so although some things were donated, it was a very practical event."

Students received a "passport" at the door, and as they completed math activities, they were given stamps for it. The stations included counting the number of jumps with a jump rope in one minute, decorating a math bookmark, tossing bean bags, folding a paper airplane, working on Sudoku puzzles, using estimation skills to guess the number of candies in a jar, and more.

"I really think the students felt a sense of importance about having that passport stamped at each station," DeWall told Education World. "They also knew that they were going to receive a prize at the end when they handed it in, so this motivated them to try all or most of the different stations."

The relaxed, carnival-like atmosphere of the event put everyone at ease. A large percentage of parents participated with their children in the various stations, which thrilled the event's planners. Prior to the evening, posters and flyers with highlights from the upcoming math night got the students and their families excited to attend.

"That night, as I was walking around and talking with students, parents, and teachers, I received such good feedback about how well the night was going," recalled DeWall, for whom the project's success was especially heartwarming. When she came to Suring Elementary, DeWall had just lost her job due to downsizing, and she was looking for an opportunity to do volunteer service on a greater scale.

"I begged my husband to let me take a year off from the real world, DeWall explained. "It would be financially challenging with two children, but we decided that it would be worth it in the end. My only regret is that I could do it for just one year."


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