Local elementary tackles math using team approach

Monday, February 6, 2006
Northwest Elementary School teacher Irene Krause explains a math concept to her Math Madness team.

Math. Blech.

That may be a common reaction to the subject by many elementary students, but with the Missouri Assessment Program math tests approaching, the staff at Northwest Elementary School in Marshall decided to try a new approach, hoping they might overcome the math blahs.

In January, Math Madness was born.

"We looked at past MAP data and realized we had to do something about math scores," said Principal Greg Owen. "We wanted something different, something challenging, something team oriented."

The staff worked together to develop the Math Madness program. The name echoes March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament that captures the attention of sports fans around the country. Owen said the idea was to capitalize on the attraction of sports to generate interest in math.

At the beginning of the year, students were put into teams. The students chose their team names and mascots and created posters with logos. The teams meet for about an hour and a half twice a week. Each week there are awards for Most Valuable Player and Most Improved Player, with the decisions based on attitude, behavior, and performance.

Fourth-grader Erick Turcios displays the Math Madness most valuable player award he received Jan. 31 for his work with the Hyper Vipers team. The competitions continue through the spring.

"We are working on math, and we are making it fun," Owen said, noting that helping students see math as fun and interesting helps them learn more and perform better.

Students seem to agree.

"It's challenging, but it's fun," said Tayler Petitt, a member of the Hyper Vipers, a team coached by teacher Irene Krause. Her teammates agreed with her.

The lessons covered during Math Madness sessions are standards-based, according to Owen, so students are studying the same concepts they will have to know in order to succeed on the MAP test later this spring.

Krause said one of the big advantages of the new approach is that teams are smaller than regular classes. Each team has no more than a dozen students.

"There is more opportunity for more one on one" interaction, she said. "You feel like you really reach each kid."

Owen said the program is too new to have generated evidence of success yet, but he hopes the quizzes students are taking regularly will soon show whether the approach is having the desired effect.

Contact Eric Crump at

marshallfaith@socket.net

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