Louisiana math teachers are stepping up their efforts to make teaching their discipline special. These are not your father’s math teachers. Nineteen of these new model teachers, five from Lafayette Parish middle school and fourteen others enrolled in UL-Lafayette’s Louisiana Mathematics Masters in the Middle program, a graduate course funded by a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation, recently took math off the blackboard and out of the classroom to an Olympic-themed summer math camp held at J. Wallace James Elementary School, Scott La.
Lasting ten days and hosting more than 40 gifted students from at-risk Lafayette schools, this is a great example of a university and neighboring elementary schools cooperating in bringing fun -- that’s right, FUN -- the newest paradigm in math instruction, to students. Instead of learning math procedures by rote, these young people had a chance to see how math can be relevant to their lives and, yes, fun!
What did they do? For one thing they used math to construct a dome that would support a certain amount of weight. For another they learned about prime numbers with the help of athletic jerseys. At something called the Ratio Racetrack they learned to use ratio while on the basketball court shooting baskets. There were all sorts of events and chances to win gold, silver and bronze medals with their mathematical skills.
Did they enjoy it? “They’re pretty enthusiastic,” said eighth-grade STEM academy teacher Lerri Cockrell. “It’s pretty great to see them get excited about solving math problems.”
The kids were not the only ones to get something out of this math camp. The teachers benefited also. The camp is part of a program leading to an elementary mathematics specialist certification. Kudos to these wonderful teachers. Seeing commitment like this it is easy to believe in our nation’s continued dominance in technology.