Fun, games at weekly math night add up for region’s military kids

Evergreen Forest one of many schools with math programs

lpemberton@theolympian.comFebruary 4, 2013 

Evergreen Forest Elementary School’s classrooms were empty, and its playground was dark.

But the library at the school in northeast Thurston County was abuzz with activity: Nearly 60 students and parents turned out for Family Math Night last Tuesday.

“It was actually pretty fun,” said sixth-grader Taryn Lucas, 12.

There were fruit snacks and popcorn to eat, math games to play and teachers who were available to talk and help with homework.

“Anything they need help with, we will help them,” said sixth-grade teacher Marilyn Pettit.

The monthly event is one of several programs offered in North Thurston Public Schools that are being funded with a three-year, nearly $1 million Department of Defense Education Activity grant.

Military children make up about 14 percent of the elementary students in North Thurston Public Schools, which borders Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The money was awarded the district’s elementary schools with the highest percentage of military students: Evergreen Forest, Horizons, Chambers Prairie, Meadows, Olympic View and Lakes. It’s specifically earmarked for programs and activities that improve behavior and boost math skills.

At Evergreen Forest, about 20 percent of the school’s 552 students have parents in the military, said principal Karen Johnson.

“Most of the families moving in all come from military backgrounds,” she said.

Military kids often change schools, and issues such as deployments and reintegration can make their lives more complicated, Johnson said.

The school has used its portion of the military grant to buy new math curriculum and supplies, pay for teacher training events, and purchase supplies for Family Math Night — including math or strategy games, such as Mancala, Fraction Bingo and Farkle.

Although the event is geared to military families, it is open to anyone at the school, Johnson said. Its goal is to improve math skills.

“We’re finding that if students do not have a good number sense early on, they’re going to struggle throughout their schooling,” Johnson said.

Pettit said she hopes the events will help change people’s attitudes about math.

“I want them first to get over math phobia,” she said. “(To learn) that math can be fun and useful and it isn’t just drudgery.”

Evergreen Forest parent Kristen Kienzle said it’s not easy for military families to live off post, so she appreciates events such as Family Math Night.

“I think it helps bring a community together,” she said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433

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