In this club, students count on having fun

Math Club at Boston Harbor Elementary near Olympia combines learning with games for students of all levels

lpemberton@theolympian.comJanuary 14, 2013 

Every Monday and Thursday, a classroom at Boston Harbor Elementary School near Olympia turns into the headquarters for Math Club.

The after-school program was founded four years ago and is funded with a $1,200 grant from the Olympia School District Education Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money to support school activities and programs.

About 20 kids attend each session. Most are referred to the program by their classroom teachers, who identify which concepts the students need to work on.

“It’s a way to help out kids who need just a little extra help,” said principal Michael Havens, who leads the program along with paraeducator Kanina Chavez.

The hour-long program includes a snack, small-group and individual tutoring and a variety of math games, including ones that kids can play on the school’s iPad tablets.

“I like it because I get to hang out with my friends and do stuff that makes my math better,” said fifth-grader Kyler Cramer, 10. “And it makes my grades better.”

Several middle- and high school students have volunteered to serve as tutors for Math Club.

“Fractions is the big thing,” said volunteer Duncan Noah, 17, a junior at Olympia High School.

Havens said he’s heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that Math Club has made a difference at the school. For example, one of the program’s students was one of four to recently earn a perfect score on a district math assessment.

“The teachers see a high value in it,” Havens added.

Kids say they enjoy the program because it doesn’t feel like a math class — there are games, friends from a variety of grade levels, and a more social atmosphere than a regular classroom.

“It’s fun,” said fourth-grader Kendall Hooper, 10.

She said even though math isn’t her favorite subject, she knows it’s important.

“Like my mom says, ‘When you’re older, you’ll probably need this information,’” Hooper said. “You’ll need to know your math facts, and you won’t be able to count on your fingers.”

On a recent afternoon, after working on specific concepts for each grade level for about a half-hour, kids played chess, a math problem-solving version of bingo, several math app games on iPads and Sum Swap, an addition and subtraction game that’s similar to Candy Land.

The room was filled with giggles and chatter about odd and even numbers, multiplication facts and other math skills.

Games can give kids practice and confidence in math, and they’re also a good way to reach kids who may learn in a different way than their peers, Chavez said.

“They’re not really thinking that it’s math,” she said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433

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