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Cincinnatus kids find fun in math

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cincinnatus fifth-grader Jesse Leonard uses a touch sensitive projection screen during a group math exercise in Deborah Latta’s math class Wednesday. This technology is part of a collaborative math game the students use to learn.

CINCINNATUS — Instead of reading from a textbook or listening to a teacher lecture, a group of elementary school sixth- graders began their school day Wednesday playing computer games.

Most chose to play Pac-Man, while others tested their wits at a variety of game options.

This period was not an early recess or study hall, it was math class.

And the games were a tool for the students to learn how to solve various types of math problems. Even Pac-Man tasked students with catching the ghost with the correct fraction to solve the problem.

The activities are part of the school district’s “math lab” initiative for fifth- and sixth-grade students, implemented in the district about three years ago.

“We were looking for something to enrich students,” said Elementary School Principal Tom Durkot, who learned about the initiative through Scholastic, a company that provides educational material for schools.

For a 40-minute period every other day, students either play computer math games in the computer lab or collaborative games in the classroom that require them to work together to solve math problems.

“It promotes instruction and learning,” Durkot said. “Our goal is to help the students.”

The math labs have benefited fifth-grader Baylee Pittsley, in particular.
Last year, Pittlsey recalls having trouble learning math, but says she has improved because of the games.

“It (the games) make math fun,” she said. “It has really helped me with my learning.”

She, along with five classmates, worked together solving a packet of math questions ranging from simple adding and subtracting to complicated fractions Wednesday morning.

They competed against other groups of classmates to be the first to answer all of the questions and complete a specific task.

With each set of questions answered, they then have to get their answers approved by their teacher, providing one-on-one interaction with the teacher and lessons on how they may have solved a problem incorrectly.

Fifth-grade math teacher Deborah Latta said this form of interaction is beneficial because in a traditional math class, if a student did not know the answer, they may not have said anything.

And the students get to help each other out.

“The kids like to work together, which is a good 21st century skill,” Latta said.

In the computer lab, the number of different math games the students can choose from is almost infinite.

Sixth-grade math teacher Alessia Kurtz said there are a number of different programs to pick from, and if students find a new math game they like, they can present it to her and it may become part of the class.

“I like them all,” sixth-grader Shannon Ryan said about the variety of math games. “I like the challenge of them.”

The games are accessible for the students to play at home, too. Kurtz said the games provide motivation to the students. They enjoy learning through the games and now consider math fun.

“It is great to see the students excited about math,” she said.

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