Bearden Middle Students School Bring Math to Life
Each year, many students can struggle with the challenge of understanding math word problems. Troy McCord, a sixth grade math teacher at Bearden Middle School, realized far too many of his students were having difficulty visualizing the real world situations being presented in word problems. Students were achieving mastery of the skills taught in class, but were unable to translate word problems with the same success. A recent unit test that focused heavily on word problems confirmed improvement was needed. McCord enlisted the help of fellow math teacher, Lauren Waldron, and consulted with Instructional Math Coach, Jill Keith. Together, they created a plan to provide real world experience through tactile discovery in hopes it may improve their ability to solve similar problems.
Using the tennis courts and surrounding area, McCord and Waldron built a Math Fair. Students worked their way through stations where they were guided through activities designed to help them achieve results first hand and transfer experiences into the mathematical process.
Having one-on-one support for the 200 students taught by McCord and Waldron was crucial to the success of the Math Fair. They enlisted the help of Bearden Middle School PTA President Virginia Babb to organize parent volunteers, who were given a detailed script to learn. This would not only help parents become the teachers but also demonstrate how necessary hands-on learning is, regardless of grade or age level.
Students were divided into pairs and given two word problems for each station when they arrived at the Math Fair. One problem involved cutting ribbon into specific lengths to see how many bows could be made from the ribbon.
Students saw how human error could slightly alter the mathematical answer. Another problem placed students in the role of an athlete, making multiple runs to collect and record data, then manipulating facts to find the correct answer. After completing each station, students participated in a reflection of the events. When McCord asked, “What did you learn,” one student explained that, “being able to visualize the problem and have it in front of them made it much easier to solve.”
A reassessment of the unit test was also given and the results were very promising. When asked how the Math Fair will influence his teaching, McCord replied, “Watching the kids do the math during the fair reminded me of how important it is to recreate as many situations as I can. It makes a difference.”
“It just solidifies the fact that as teachers, we need to work harder to accommodate different styles of learning,” Waldron said. “Switching up classroom instruction styles can be a huge factor in helping a student grasp a mathematical concept.”
Another event is already being planned for the spring semester.