Family Math Night=Learning + Fun
Imagine elementary age children and their parents together engaged in creative mathematical activities helped out by Grand Valley students and faculty in a fun atmosphere. Now you’ve got the idea of Family Math Night.
Grand Valley faculty members Pam Wells, Matt Wyneken and Paul Yu hoped to ease their future elementary teachers into teaching by providing a teaching experience in an environment that was realistic but low-stress. At the same time, they hoped to help local elementary students and their parents recognize that there was a playful side to mathematics that is often not appreciated through class work. Their solution was to bring these two groups together through the creation of Family Math Night.
Family Math Night events, held in local elementary schools for students in grades K-6 and their parents, provide a variety of hands-on activities that engage participants in meaningful mathematics such as geometry, probability and statistics, patterning, and measurement. For example, one activity asks students to blow bubbles that they pop on a piece of dark construction paper. The moisture from the bubble leaves a circle on the paper, the diameter and circumference of which can be measured with string. In this way, students discover that the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of the circle is π no matter how large the circle is.
Grand Valley student helpers lead the elementary students and their families through the activities in ways that are meaningful for the students no matter their age. This gives the Grand Valley students experience in writing lesson plans and modifying or extending them to make them accessible to every age range. Planning these lessons gives the student helpers valuable exposure to the standards established by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).
The response to the two Family Math Nights held in the fall was overwhelmingly positive from school principals, elementary students, their parents, and Grand Valley students. Plans call for two more Family Math Nights this semester, with additional assistance from Grand Valley faculty members Steve Blair, Marge Friar and Nancy Alexander, and more events next year as well.