While most students spend their recess blowing off steam on the playground, a handful of students at Walden Elementary School (WES) are cracking codes and solving equations at WES’ math club.
In September 2015, WES AIS teachers Kerry Devine and Janet Ganzer sent invitations to 12 fifth-grade students who had performed well on the state’s math assessment tests, or who had been recommended by their teachers to join the newly-formed club, which meets during recess. Some come on an off and on basis, but four students make up the core of the math club, participating nearly every recess period.
The students work on activities that Ms. Devine and Ms. Ganzer find on different websites. Sometimes, the students play math-related games such as Sudoko or Battleship. They also find ways to create fun challenges for the students with cards. One such challenge involves dealing five random cards and students must use each of the five numbers on the cards once to create an equation that equals 24.
“I love math club because it’s not straight math like worksheets and the assignments we complete in class,” fifth-grade student Alana Hayes said. “It’s a lot more fun to play these challenging games.”
Ms. Ganzer has noticed a marked improvement in the students’ perseverance in solving math problems since they began attending math club.
“Children are used to instant gratification today,” Ms. Ganzer said. “But the more often they work on these problems, the more they believe they can solve a challenge.”
WES’ math club recently participated in an online contest hosted by an organization that called The Math League, which strives to foster students’ enjoyment of the study of mathematics. The contest was comprised of 30 challenging math problems. Students from across the globe participate in these contests.
“Any score above a 12 on a Math League contest is considered commendable,” Ms. Devine said. “All of our students scored in that range, and we even had one student with a score of 16, which is exemplary.”
“The math club challenges your brain,” fifth-grade student Femi Yuseff said. “Learning complicated math will help me in sixth grade, because the math will be harder then, and it’ll also help me in the future when I get a job.”