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Harper Elementary makes math fun with displays

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Harper Elementary School, in Riverdale, was transformed into a center for mathematics last week, when the school hosted its first "Math Focus Week."

Hallways were decorated with interactive, math-themed, bulletin boards, "estimation stations," and measurement tables. The school's gymnasium was transformed into the "Brain Gym," where teachers challenged the minds of their young students with math questions.

School officials organized the event as a way to prepare students for the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs), which will be administered April 15-27.

"Math Focus Week" was the brain child of Harper Assistant Principal Wilbur Garner. "We're just trying to bring attention to math, and get kids excited about this subject," Garner said. "When I worked at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School [in Morrow], we did a 'Math Focus Week,' so when I moved to Harper, I thought it'd be a good idea to do it here as well."

Every math activity set up at the school during the week was based on a different section of the Georgia Performance Standards for Elementary School Math. The CRCTs are a measure of how well students are learning the performance standards for their grade levels.

In elementary school, students are exposed to several math concepts, ranging from addition and subtraction, to time, money, and geometry.

Several tables were set up throughout the school where students were given opportunities to solve math problems that involved measuring temperatures, the length of floor tiles, and the length of a large, toy snake.

Teachers spent last Sunday decorating every bulletin board in the school with a math theme. Some coordinated their boards with Black History Month, by posing math problems to students, such as "Round the year of Brown vs. Board of Education to the nearest hundred."

"They wanted to do something for Black History Month, so they found a way to tie it in," said Dennis Simon, Harper's math coach.

One bulletin board was battery powered, so students could see lights come on, if they were able to correctly match a shape's name, with pictures of the shape. Another board featured a large "Mathopoly" board game.

Garner said the teachers embraced the "Math Focus Week" concept so much, some of them were at the school last Sunday, from 10:30 a.m., till 8:30 p.m., getting their bulletin boards and other materials ready for the week..

"They didn't want to leave," Garner said. "I had to make them leave."

Kindergarten Teacher Gia Miller said she enjoyed "Math Focus Week," because it was exciting to see her students interested in learning about math. "It's a learning experience for them," Miller said. "The best part is just seeing how they are engaged and interacting with the boards."

Several students said they enjoyed the week, too, because the math problems were fun to answer. "I particularly liked the 'Time' station, because I got to count time," said second-grader Zachary Whitehurst, 8.

"I like multiplication and division, but the hardest math question I've ever been asked to solve is 20 times 15, which was posed to my class this week by my teacher," said Kierra Bolton, 8, another second-grader.

"I haven't figured out the answer, yet, but I've been practicing. I think I'm going to solve it soon."