Published February 3, 2005

Want to help your child do better in math? Put away the flash cards and bring out the Cheerios. Well, not really, but Westside Elementary recently showed about 100 parents and students that there’s a variety of ways to put the merriment in math.

Calling the event Edible Math Night, teachers and volunteers at eight stations in the school cafeteria used pizza to teach fractions, cartoon-character crackers for addition and subtraction, candy prizes for bingo to promote number sense, and M&Ms to teach mean, median and mode. And the best part is that the children got to eat or take home the goodies they used to complete the math work. “It was a way to get parents involved. Kids like it when their parents come with them to school,” said Stacie Wharton, Title I parent educator and organizer of the Jan. 13 event. “It’s also a way to show parents that they can do this at home with any food they have around.”

Math teacher Bradley Stevenson staffed the popular bingo station and explained how the game challenged students “to concentrate, recognize patterns, follow rules and develop a number sense.”

The Edible Math event was designed “to promote math and numbers as something that can be fun on the way to mastering the academic concepts,” he said.

At another station, fourth-grader Monica Sosnowski was enjoying the festivities at her new school as her dad, Ed, watched nearby. They moved to the area recently from Missouri.

“This is very fun,” Monica said. “I’m learning, eating and having fun at the same time.”

Sitting with her new best friend, Monica was “adding up a pretzel and pizza. And on the bottom I put 46. It’s about fractions,” she explained.

Third-grader Kylor Roberts, 8, outlined a drawing of a gingerbread man with small marshmallows to find the perimeter. Then he filled in the picture with more marshmallows to find the area. He was challenged to count all the marshmallows by twos. No problem.

“I knew how to count by twos since kindergarten,” Kylor said. Then, for good measure, he double-checked his work counting by threes.

Seated next to him was his sister, Kyra, a first-grader who was supposed to be in the child care room because the event was for second- through fifth-graders. But she was too excited about the activities and crashed the party, confidently counting out her marshmallows by ones.

The evening also featured a fast-paced math drill by Kazmira Pedonesi, educational consultant with Acaletics, a program that enhances math proficiency and has been used by several district schools.

“I wanted parents to see how beneficial (this program) is for their kids, and how it helps them with FCAT and enhances the math they’re learning in the classroom,” Wharton said. “Our (school’s) math scores have improved as well as the children’s abilities.”

Wharton was pleased with the turnout, and hopes that word of its success will spread and attendance will grow at future events.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the night began with parents and their children enjoying a free supper donated by local businesses, like chicken tenders from Outback Steakhouse, wings from Beef O’Brady’s and Hooters, Red Lobster’s biscuits, desserts from Applebee’s and Whistle Junction, and pizza from Westshore and Pizza Hut, whose general manager and an assistant also staffed one of the stations. A Sam’s Club gift certificate also helped buy some supplies.

“It was wonderful that all these businesses contributed,” said Wharton, acknowledging that the free dinner probably helped attendance. But, in the end, she said it was the event itself that carried the day.

“I like Mr. Stevenson’s comment” about making math fun, Wharton said. “He said, “If you like it, you will learn.’ ”


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