Making math fun for all

The best way to get kids enthusiastic about math? Bring out large foam dice, colorful paper lanterns and a jar of squishy eyeballs.

Thanks to an anonymous donor, Orcas Island Elementary students were treated to a “Math Buster” assembly from the Pacific Science Center on Feb. 27.

According to Principal Lorena Stankevich, math is one of the school’s yearly improvement goals, which is based on data from assessments; student behavior; staff, parent and student surveys; and a state report card. By the end of the 2018-19 school session, Stankevich aims for every grade to increase student proficiency in math by 10 percent, with a goal of 80 percent or more of students at the proficient level. In addition, there are two new math curriculums that include extended instruction time.

Instructor Sheila Carey asked the kids if they used math in daily, practical applications like going shopping with their parents or following a recipe. Carey then declared she doesn’t like math (which elicited both boos and cheers from the crowd) and would make a stew during the “No Math Cooking Show.” After unappetizing results, she and the students concluded that math is okay after all.

Carey invited volunteers to participate in interactive games with a variety of fun props that explored probability, geometry and estimates – like guessing how many eyeballs were in a container (the answer: 129). The assembly finished with a science project that incorporated a catalyst and chemical reaction to make exploding orange foam.