That’s so math! Mead students have an adventure
March 6, 2013
By Lillian O'Rorke
What does nearly three dozen activity booths times 300 children divided by 45 volunteers equal? Math Night at Margaret Mead Elementary School.
After four years of not having the event, the school’s PTA resurrected the celebration of arithmetic, by turning the building into a carnival where children raced to add up equations in their head in a game of add-it-N-slap it and stood in line to do “Skittles Math.”
“It was pretty good,” said 5-year-old Keegan Allen, who swears he didn’t eat any of the Skittles. “I got to do all the fun games and stuff.”
Morgan Kotowski, who attends fourth grade at Margaret Mead, said her favorite game was one where you arranged glass figures on a board without touching any of the corners.
“It’s like combining a puzzle and math so you are kind of learning how to do a puzzle and math,” she said. “It’s really, really fun and cool and I really, really like doing math night. I like math and I love school.”
Nina Smith is the parent volunteer that led the effort, spending the last three months organizing volunteers and coming up with ideas for games.
“A lot of schools in the Lake Washington School District have math nights, math enrichment after school, and it was just something I thought we should have,” said Smith.
In the beginning, she estimated around 200 children would participate in the event. When more than 300 showed up, she spent much of the night refilling the different game supplies at each booth and hunting down more pencils.
She said that she especially felt indebted to the mother who ran the Skittles table, which was constantly surrounded by a mob of children.
“I think the volunteers are like ‘I didn’t sign up for this kind of crazy,’” said Smith. “Honestly, the volunteers are overwhelmed out there. There are so many kids and so much coming at them. I am just really thankful for the volunteers.”
But if anything wasn’t going as planned, it wasn’t evident on the student’s faces.
“There are things that are not right, but you look at a kid and they’re happy and you’re like ‘that’s what’s right’,” Smith said. “There are a lot of parents that care enough to be here and do this because I really don’t think they are having fun out there, to be honest – I really don’t. But they’re doing it, and the kids are having fun, and that’s what’s important…It’s been a good night.”
And not all the volunteers were parents. Davia Whitt and Jessica Dankberg, who both attend fifth grade at Margaret Mead, gave up participating in the festivities to track each class’s progress.
“I like to volunteer,” said Whitt. “It’s kind of busy but it’s kind of fun running around and helping people…it gets kids interested in math and reading and fun games.”
After completing a game or activity, children earned a sticker for the Math Night passport. Once the passport was full, they took it to Whitt and Dankberg, who added a star to each class’s name for every one of its students that turned in passport. The class with the most stars at the end of the night won an ice cream party. By 8 p.m. that night, Dankberg’s class, taught by Pat Leahy, was in the lead.
“Yes. I was so excited. I’m like ‘OK, one for Leahy – oh my God.’ So, I just got happy,” said Dankberg.
She was just happy volunteering, where she also rewarded students with “pencils of awesomeness,” as she called them.
“It’s actually really fun [volunteering]. I like the rush too because it’s like ‘I don’t know what’s going on,” she said while clinching her head. “And at the same time I get to make a lot of jokes, so it’s fun.”
The school’s principal, Sandy Klein, said she is happy the PTA brought back Math night and would like to see it become a bi-annual tradition, switching it every other year with the school’s international celebration.
“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “The gals and men, men and ladies, that organized it are just really excited to show kids how much fun math can be in so many ways, and make it really meaningful in many aspects of life. I think it’s wonderful.”