Market Math

This is a reprint of an article on Branfordseven.com by Robin Comey in spring 2011

Students from John B. Sliney School kids traversed the aisles of Big Y this week as part of “Market Math Mania,” completing a series of math related tasks that took what they learned in the classroom and applied it to real world. Third graders had the chance to experience for the first time how to read a 20 pound hanging produce scale and how to scan their own groceries. Beforehand however, they had to do a whole lot of estimating.

The event was a collaboration between the Sliney School PTA and Big Y.

Working along side parents, teachers and volunteers, students were asked to gauge the weight or cost of an item before calculating the hard facts. The event challenged kids to think in terms of fractions, graphing and even taste testing pickles in someplace they hadn’t considered before. The PTA teamed with Wendy Murphy, math specialist at Sliney, in providing appropriate materials to complement the 3rd grade math curriculum, which features the “Investigations” program.

Investigations has been highly criticized by some parents, with many of the disagreements centering on teachers ability to have additional materials and workbooks at their disposal, as a complement to the program. It remains the goal of the Sliney School PTA to play an active role in their childs education, thus providing educational events. “Market Math Mania” follows the tradition of last years’ “Be Water Wise” event. Critical in this effort are partnerships with people and organizations like the The Regional Water Authority’s Education Department and Big Y.

Supt. Hernandez visited Market Math Mania and was especially pleased at the quality of the worksheets and the support of the business community. Big Y’s involvement was vital, and when approached with the concept, stepped up with practically everything on the organizers extensive wish list. That support allowed the team the chance to focus on preparing quality worksheets and managing volunteers for the activities.

Also supporting the event was Mohegan Sun, Pepperidge Farm and Walmart, providing dice, cards, and snacks for the take home goody bags. Big Y’s Homework Helpers provided rulers, pencils, coloring books and crayons. Cross district elementary health teacher Mrs. Holly Mulcahey used the evening as an opportunity to talk with kids about the proper way to read food labels and making healthy choices based on the new food pyramid.

Making math fun was really the goal of the evening. About 30 families in all participated, most of which, but not all, are students at Sliney School. For example, one family of four from Mary T. Murphy came into the store in their rain slickers (they had walked there) on a shopping outing they gladly accepted clipboards and set to work. Five stations were set up throughout the store, for activities such as Measure it Up, Price is Right, Check it out, Pickle Tasting and the most popular, M&M Math.

The event was modeled off a decade old program created by Acton-PIP, a district wide non-profit parent group. PIP, located in the technology corridor of Massachusetts, stands for Parent Involvement Project, whose goal is to increase community involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education (STEM) K-12. Their outreach program can only be described as massive, hosting everything from Robotics competitions to environmental education events, and even providing scholarships. They have an extensive list of business partners and strong financial support from local businesses and hi-tech companies throughout the region.

And because of PIP’s generosity and sharing of their time tested program pieces, elementary students in Branford left the event with not only a goody bag, but a better understanding of practical math applications in a retail setting and sharpened math skills.