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The City Journals

Educational games add up to fun math night at Midvalley

Mar 05, 2019 02:53PM ● By Julie Slama

Volunteers taught Midvalley students math games during their math night that was supported by a $1,000 STEM grant provided by Mathnasium. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Midvalley PTA President Kirsti Raleigh saw a $1,000 Mathnasium grant on a website, she knew she had to apply.

“We’re emphasizing math this year and I thought this was something we hadn’t done before, so I applied,” she said. “I didn’t realize the scope of it.”

The scope was that about 500 people came to the Jan. 28 math night that featured math educational games and activities at multiple stations, staffed by three Mathnasium employees, multiple Union Middle School National Junior Honors Society members, Midvalley PTA members and faculty and other volunteers.

“We wanted our students to get excited about math and our parents to get engaged with kids with the goal of them continuing to play these games at home,” Raleigh said. “I feel this is a way for families to get involved without feeling like a language barrier is an issue as we have 19 different languages spoken at the school.”

The grant covered 65 pizzas to feed the crowd as well as a deck of cards and dice for each student to take home to continue playing the games at their homes. Students had to complete the passport of all the activities before they could take their prizes home.

Mathnasium of Cottonwood Heights owner Mila Gleason said that was the only Utah school that was awarded a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) grant for a family math night. It’s the first year of the grant program.

“This is an event that encourages families of students of all levels to learn, participate and have fun,” she said. “A lot of the games focus on math facts under 12 so they can just learn them without using their fingers. We want them to be numerically fluent.”

Seated at one table was second-grade teacher Lisa Kinghorn teaching students how to play a four-way countdown.

“They need to add or subtract really quickly if they’re in the younger grades or multiply or divide if they’re older,” she said. “This is making math facts more fun and if they have fun with math, they’ll want to do it more in the classroom.”

Kinghorn’s second-grader, Oliver Sorenson, brought his dad, Curtis, to the math night.

“My favorite game is the dice,” Oliver said. “We roll the dice, then we add or subtract it. I also like to flip up the numbers and quickly add those. I like math. It’s fun and you get to answer all the problems.”

Kerri Sutton brought her second-grader, Sam, and kindergartner, Natalie, to learn the math games.

“We wanted to see what all was involved so we can have fun playing them at home,” she said. 

Sam’s favorite game was playing a math version of the game Hedbanz, where players had to guess what numbers added up to a total. Natalie liked turning over cards until they added up to 10, then slapping it first.

Canyons Board of Education member Mont Millerberg was having fun with his grandchildren.

“It’s good to see so many parents here, involved in their children’s learning,” he said, adding he was impressed with the support of the community to volunteer at the event. “They’re learning math doesn’t have to be boring. We’ll play some of these card game with the grandkids.”

Union Middle students Sophie Talbot and Josie Paul volunteered to help students at one table.

“I love to help kids succeed at math,” Sophie said, adding that her volunteer time counted toward service hours for National Junior Honor Society.

Josie tagged along, saying, “It sounded like fun. It helps make their brains stronger with math facts.”

At another table, Union eighth-grader and NJHS member Samantha Baldwin said she was having fun teaching students to learn the interactive games.

“I want to show them how these games can be fun so they can enjoy them at home,” she said. “I’m showing them how fractions work and relating them to cooking and science so they can understand their use.”

Principal Tamra Baker was pleased with how volunteers involved the students, teachers and families in the math activities.

“I’m sure our teachers will continue to use these games to engage students in the classroom and we’re hoping families will play them at home as well,” she said. “This has been a fun, engaging way to bring our community together.”

Baker said math night, which they couldn’t have hosted without the grant, replaces the family multicultural family night activity since this year. That is because the east field and paved area in the front of the school are slated to be under construction with the building of the new school in May, when the traditional event usually is held. 

Assistant Superintendent Kathryn McCarrie supported the math night.

“It was exhilarating to watch students’ excitement and enthusiasm as they energetically engaged with their parents to play the mathematical games,” she said. “The multi-purpose room was packed, but well organized so that everyone was involved and appeared to be having fun. Although there were plenty of prizes, the real reward was time students shared with their family in a learning activity. Everyone who attended was a winner.”