“Key Ideas” for Mathematics Enrichment in Afterschool
“Long division is impossible!” If your afterschool program
offers mathematics enrichment, you have undoubtedly heard comments
like this one. While enticing a student who dislikes math to devote
another hour to the subject in afterschool is hardly a task any instructor
would enjoy, an afterschool program can be an ideal setting to help
students become math lovers. As we discuss math in this issue of
AfterWords, we are focusing on what we call “key ideas” in
math.1 These are strategies in afterschool mathematics
enrichment that can help your students become better at math and
perhaps enjoy it more, too.
Encourage problem solving. One afterschool instructor we talked to
realized that her students were frustrated spending their afterschool
time struggling through worksheets as they tried to learn to multiply
and divide fractions. Instead she put them to work in the kitchen,
asking them to make a quadruple batch of cookies and reduce a brownie
recipe by half. The students had to use their problem-solving skills
to determine how they would multiply and divide fractions.
Develop and Support Math Talk. When
they worked on their recipes, few of the students knew how to determine
the correct measurements, they talked about it. By discussing the
problems in their own words, students were able to build on what
they already knew and better understand mathematical ideas like
Emphasize Working Together. Many of us who have prepared a meal with
a friend or two can say that the company often makes the task more
fun. The same is true for the students learning about math in the
kitchen. As it turns out, research indicates that the students probably
learned more about multiplying and dividing fractions by working
in a group than they would have working alone.
1 Key ideas in math are some of the resources
provided in the online Afterschool Training Toolkit for Mathematics,
whose contents were developed by the staff at the Mid-Continent Research in Education and Learning (McREL),
a partner in the National Partnership.