tampabay.com

Math event adds up to fun

By MEGAN VOELLER
Published March 16, 2007


Some elementary school teachers found themselves teaching in an unlikely setting - a shopping mall.

The Math at the Mall Extravaganza, organized by the Hillsborough County Elementary Mathematics Council, was held Saturday at the Westfield Brandon mall.

Nearly 20 teachers from 10 schools manned tables where children solved math puzzles as their parents watched and helped.

The tasks included making figures with Tangrams, an ancient, seven-piece geometric puzzle. The kids were also challenged to calculate the most common marshmallow in a bag of Lucky Charms.

The 5-year-old event is intended to get parents and children excited about math, said Heather MacDonald, a first-grade teacher at Palm River elementary and the event chairwoman.

"It's fun, and you want kids to think math is fun, and parents, too, for that matter," she said.

"Some parents think, 'Well, I wasn't good at math, my kids aren't going to be good at math' and they need to get over that. It's not genetic."

Each of the participating schools presented a different activity. Teachers from Tampa's Just Elementary School helped children create a creature by pasting together colorful geometric shapes. By adding up the numerical values assigned to each shape, kids could discover their creature's total value.

While designed for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, many of the games and puzzles could be adapted to each child's age level, for example, by using addition for younger students and multiplication for older children.

"They're having a blast. I can't drag them away," said Jodie Talley, watching her daughters, Megan, 5, and fourth-grader, Kristine, make paper clocks with movable hands.

"Both of them were playing all the games because they could adjust it," she said.

Wendy Vargas watched as her son, Angel, a second-grader at Thonotosassa's Folsom Elementary School, solved an addition puzzle played with plastic bottle caps.

"If they had different events as well, like reading, or writing, or other workshops, that would work, too," she said.

For Vargas, the convenient setting added to the event's appeal. "My husband is out here somewhere shopping," she said.

Retailers also took part in the event, inviting students to solve a problem related to their store.

For calculating the number of video games on a shelf or how long a bottle of vitamins could last, students could win prizes.