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A Student-Led Math Family Fun Night:
The Logistics (Page 2)



Brainstorming and selecting activities.
Do you prefer to engage students in whole-class brainstorming and decision-making sessions or would you rather arrange them into small teams? Will the initial planning and other preparations take place primarily in class or outside of class? How much class time can you allot to planning for a Math Family Fun Night?

More Resources

* Family Math, by Jean Kerr Stanmark, V. Thompson, and R. Cossey. U. C. Berkeley, 1986, 319 pages, $19.95.
* Family Math Night: Math Standards in Action, by Jennifer Taylor-Cox and Christine Oberdorf. Eye on Education, 2005, 120 pages, $29.95.
* Family Math Night: Middle-School Math Standards in Action, by Jennifer Taylor-Cox and Christine Oberdorf. Eye on Education, 2006, 104 pages, $29.95.

Your students probably will have lots of creative ideas for turning what they've learned into fun games and activities. You might suggest activities, too. You also might consult such resources as those listed in the sidebar. At our Math Family Fun Night, we had a mix of student-developed games, math mysteries, math crafts, computer activities, hands-on activities, estimation jars, and more. Have you included activities that will stimulate adults as well as children, as well as activities that younger students can handle with support?

The planners like surprises, too! We had four classes involved in planning and leading our math evening, and each class kept the nature of its activities secret from the other classes until the night was underway.

Keep it simple.
Work out the details of each activity. Guide students to keep most of the activities simple enough to be explained or demonstrated easily. If small rewards or prizes will be given out, will they be fairly consistent across all rooms and activities? Better still is to plan an evening without rewards or prizes, except perhaps fun certificates for game winners.

One of our most popular activities was a two-room Estimation Alley with ten jars of items to be estimated, and a box for guesses next to each jar. We didnt need any student leaders or parent helpers in those rooms. Can you think of other leaderless activities?

Estimation Jar

Do you think you'll be able to have a team of helpers comb through guesses to determine winners of estimation jar activities before the evening ends or will it make more sense to announce winners in school a day or two later?

Make it clear.
Be sure to post signs labeling each activity. On each door, post a notice announcing specific entry times or "Enter any time." Inside each room, post game rules or step-by-step instructions for math crafts and other activities. Students should be able to write the instructions themselves.


Working in shifts.
Will all or nearly all your students be involved in leading activities? At our Math Night, most students led activities in 20-minute shifts, while a handful of students served as greeters, passing out math packets and name tags at the school door. If some students like the idea of working the whole evening, however, others might like the idea of having the whole evening to visit activities.

Practicing roles.
Will students have a chance to practice their roles ahead of time before the class or a small group? Coach students to speak in clear, confident voices.

Other students should practice being visitors at each activity. How long does it typically take to complete a specific activity? Look for ways to streamline each activity and keep things moving at a good pace. Do some activities need two leaders?

Labeling leaders.
How will participants know who's the leader? Our student leaders wore colorful badges around their necks that said "I'm in charge here." They passed the badges on to new leaders when their 20-minute shifts were up. Parents and other family members had the option of wearing "helper" labels.


Parent Helpers

Behind the scenes.
Although it's great for students to do as much as possible of the behind-the-scenes work -- writing instructions, making signs and posters, designing paper-and-pencil activities that can be included in math packets for those waiting in line -- you'll surely have some parents happy to help and some tasks for those parent helpers: making copies, cutting paper, purchasing supplies or refreshments, helping to set up and clean up, and keeping refreshment areas stocked with food and drinks.

Who's going to count all the objects in the estimation jars -- without giving away any secrets ahead of time? If students help, be sure they count carefully and report partial counts to you so no one knows the total for a given jar. Or you might enlist parent help here, too.

If youre rearranging furniture in classrooms, will you know how to put things back the way they were? It will help to make assignments ahead of time, so one family is responsible for set-up and another for cleanup of each room.

Activity helpers.
Some activities can be run by one student, but some activities might benefit from a family helper to pass out supplies, help keep score, hand out rewards, and so on. Parents can make sure their children arrive for their leadership roles at least a couple of minutes ahead of time and turn things over to the next leader on schedule. arents should not take over, however! If a student needs help explaining an activity, that support should happen ahead of time in school or at home. Send home a note or make sure students clarify for their families how they may help and not help during the activities.


Post announcements in school newsletters well ahead of time. Send home catchy flyers decorated by the students. Send additional information and sign-up forms to families of student leaders. You'll want to involve as many students as possible, and you'll need firm commitments from leaders' families.

Have some students visit the classrooms of students who will be attending the evening to show a couple of estimation jars or other visual props and stir up interest in the event. Those classroom visits also will help students practice speaking before unfamiliar groups in preparation for their roles on the big night.


Exit surveys.
Students also might design exit surveys to be filled out quickly before visitors leave or filled out at home and turned in within the next few days. You might ask which activities they liked best, and repeat those activities at your next Math Family Fun Night. Encourage suggestions for improvements for future math nights.

Students' self-reflections.
In class after the event, allow time for students to share their reactions both orally and in writing. How did they feel about their own role and preparations? What did they think about the activities and leadership in other rooms? What were their overall reactions to the evening? Was it worth the time and trouble? What suggestions do they have for the future? This time of reflection is a valuable part of the learning process.

Looking to the future.
Will Math Family Fun Nights become a tradition at your school? Many families at our school are already looking forward to our next one. Will the same students be able to participate in leading a second evening of math fun during the same school year or the next? This is a wonderful way for you and your students to put into practice the lessons learned as you plan an even better Math Family Fun Night in the future!

For more information and insights into planning for a student-led family math night, be sure to see Wendy Pettis article A Student-Led Math Family Fun Night: Learning from the Planning Process.

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