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December 01, 2010
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab




SRU education students show math can be family fun


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – While everyone knows two plus two equals four, the problem of getting young children interested in mathematics is much harder. Slippery Rock University students are tackling the issue this month by staging two “Family Math Night” events at regional elementary schools.

The first program was last night at Walnut Ridge Elementary School in the Ellwood City School District. The second is at 6 p.m., Dec. 8, at Moraine Elementary School, part of the Slippery Rock School District.

“We will have about 45 of our University students staging carnival-like events at the school’s gymnasium, all focused on math,” said James Preston, SRU assistant professor elementary education and early childhood. “The major purpose of the program is to give our elementary education teacher candidates the experience of working with students outside the classroom and the chance to communicate with their parents.”

            The SRU students are enrolled in Preston’s “Methods of Teaching Elementary Mathematics” course.

“Students will work in pairs putting together a math-based activity related to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Mathematics Standards,” Preston said. “The program is open to those in kindergarten through sixth grade students at the Ellwood City school and to third through fifth grade students at Moraine, and their parents. Each family will visit a number of booths where they will join in a math-related activity. The parents will also be given a handout related to the activity that will offer them help in further integrating such math activities at home.”

The SRU students are currently undertaking their classroom observation studies. This project is related to their mathematics and science methods required learning block. The SRU students will undertake their actual classroom teaching assignments next year.

The teacher candidates have prepared activities based on the elementary student’s grade level. “I ask them to prepare the activity with flexibility, so that it can be ramped up for older students, or ramped down for younger students,” Preston said.

            “As an example, an algebra activity might simply ask about repeating patterns for a younger child, but an older child or more capable child might tackle a task involving growing patterns. In a geometry activity the project could relate to identifying characteristics of shapes or comparing and contrasting shapes for a student at a higher readiness level. A station for older children might employ both multiplication and division in the same project,” he said.

            “We have done these events before with the program sponsored by the school and organized by teachers,” Preston said. “We want to demonstrate how mathematical activities can show both children and parents how math is all around us, how math can be fun and how students can engage in mathematical activities at home with the support of their parents.”

“One of the over-riding principles in planning the activity is that it is simple enough to be done at home with materials found around the house. I ask my students to choose an activity that is somewhat self-explanatory and simple enough that participants can move it along on their own. The emphasis is certainly on having fun,” he said.

Topics at the carnival will include activities related to numbers and measurements, algebra, geometry, probability and even data analysis.

The project involves a number of each district’s school teachers and administrators in addition to the SRU contingent.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.