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It Adds Up: Delta State Math Professors Lead Afterschool Math Club at Presbyterian Day School

Dr. Lee Virden (seated) and elementary education student Laura Gaskin work with Presbyterian Day School students to build 3D regular polyhedron out of glow sticks and Styrofoam balls.

Delta State University and the Presbyterian Day School (PDS) in Cleveland motivate elementary schoolchildren to learn about math through fun activities and games.

Dr. Liza Bondurant, an assistant professor of math at Delta State, and her colleague, Dr. Lee Virden, an associate professor of math, lead the Crazy 8s, a recreational afterschool math club, which seeks to increase student math achievement as well as recruit and train future STEM and education majors.

“We see this as an opportunity to build a community partnership with PDS, help PDS students enjoy and excel in math, and encourage PDS students to think about studying math at DSU someday,” Bondurant said.

The club, which meets one hour a day for eight weeks at the primary school, began last fall and concluded its second eight-week session on April 3. Each session, called a season, focuses on a variety of math topics and new activities disguised as learning, Bondurant explained.

Bedtime Math, a nonprofit organization that seeks to make learning math fun, provides a free kit for the hands-on activities and games that use manipulatives like glow sticks, bouncy dice, and toilet paper.

Dr. Liza Bondurant helps students make a tessellation out of glow sticks.

The first activity each season involves constructing shapes with glow sticks and Styrofoam balls.

“It’s teaching them about geometry, their creations glow in the dark, and they are constructing them with their hands,” Bondurant said. “They really enjoy those kinds of activities.”

The club’s name, Crazy 8s, is the same as a card game that involves matching numbers and suits. There are also a lot of eights involved in the activities (i.e.: a Crazy 8s board game).

Presbyterian Day School’s Principal Diane Burd said more than two dozen elementary students now view math more worthwhile and have stronger math abilities by participating in the club.

“The ones that had a little fear of math or a little resistance to math, I think they feel more comfortable about working with math,” Burd said. “I think it’s given them a lot of confidence.” Through the creative, participatory activities, the children “see that math can be fun and that it’s not something you need to dread.”

The club also gives volunteers like Laura Gaskin, a junior majoring in elementary education at Delta State, skills she can take with her into the classroom once she graduates.

“It gives me excellent experience working with kids,” Gaskin said. “I also get to observe other teaching styles.”

Bondurant said she hopes to keep the program going and get even more students involved. “We’ve enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun, and the kids are liking it. It’s a win-win definitely.”

Virden helps a student measure how far a marshmallow flew from the catapult that the student made.