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Curriculum Details for
Math is Cool!

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Program
Description
Practitioner Expert
Review
Content Expert
Review
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Content Expert Reviewer

Janet Vignaly
Janet Vignaly is a licensed mathematics teacher who taught high school algebra and geometry in Boston, Massachusetts and also worked with students in afterschool settings for extra help in math. Previously, she worked for four years in Nairobi, Kenya, as a primary school science and math teacher. There she also helped develop literacy and feeding programs for children in impoverished settings. She received her Masters degree from the Teacher Education Program with a focus on mathematics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Content

  • The Math is Cool! Math infusion guide contains guidelines for how afterschool programs can create a positive math-infused experience for children ages 5-14.
  • Explains how fun, hands-on activities can be connected with classroom learning.
  • Much of the guide provides tools for the program to use in outreach to the families and community.
  • A Curriculum Kit including books, games, toys and an activity guide is also available for purchase, as well as the guide alone.
  • In the guide, there are also several detailed examples of how programs can infuse math into snack time, circle time, sports, and other activities.

Skills

Academic Skills
  • The checklist of activities covers the following math skills: measurement, numbers and operations, geometry, algebra, problem solving, recognizing patterns, analyzing data, communicating mathematical thinking, and others.
  • Teaches students to appreciate the mathematics that they use in daily activities.
Study Skills
  • Budgeting and planning
  • Real-world math skills
Non-Academic Skills
  • Learning to plan ahead
  • An appreciation of differences and other interpersonal skills.
  • Verbal and written communication.

Alignment to Standards

  • The guide makes reference to the NCTM standards, and the connections to these standards are explicitly and accurately spelled out after each activity.
  • The curriculum does not attempt to instruct users in exactly how to apply standards to their own teaching. Rather, it asks users to keep these standards in mind as they incorporate math into everyday activities in an afterschool program.

Assessment

  • Students’ learning is not explicitly assessed, although program instructors would presumably begin to observe students using more mathematical language and recognizing the math they use in fun activities.
  • The guide is very project-oriented, so one could assume that learning is assessed in the completion of these projects.

Structure

  • Math is Cool offers very little structure, as it is more a method of infusing math into any existing program than a curriculum in itself.
  • Strategies suggested could be used within almost any context, rather than pre-defined lessons and sequences.
  • The guide does include an outline of how to phase certain math elements into a program over the first year of implementation.
  • The guide suggests making the existing afterschool program more student-directed through involving them in spending of snack budgets, program budgets, and other planning that involves math.  It is often up to the instructors to direct or leave open the activities as much as they want.

Addressing Diverse Student Needs

Adaptability
  • Since the activities are more suggestions than lesson plans, the instructors can easily adapt them to the needs of the group.
  • For example, “Crack the Code Jr.” directs instructors to match newer counters with more experienced mathematicians to reduce frustration.
  • There are also suggestions for how to alter the difficulty level of many activities.
Developmental level
  • The program targets ages 5-14, and the guide begins with a description of developmental stages of mathematical learning for different age groups.
  • The given activities do specify the target grades, and some contain adaptations for older or younger students.
Learning Styles Addressed
  • This curriculum can be used to teach to any learning style.
  • Movement/spatial learning: Mathematical adaptations of popular games such as Freeze Tag, Kickball, Jump rope, and costume plays.
  • Interpersonal learning: Most activities are done in groups, and many involve ways for students to reflect on and learn about members of the group. Activities can be collaborative or competitive.
  • Artistic learning: One example is “Fraction Necklace,” where students “purchase” strings and colored beads with fractions of “bogus bucks,” and then design necklaces, bracelets, and pins using original patterns.
Multiculturalism
  • The guide encourages responsiveness to students’ diverse backgrounds. 
  • Tips for family involvement include: researching family history, constructing family trees, etc.  This activity contains a reminder that foster children, children who are homeless, or those whose histories have not been documented need special consideration before beginning such an activity.
  • The guide also gives very specific advice for teachers in interacting with students and families of different backgrounds, including families that do not speak English fluently.
  • There are hints for engaging girls and students of color, who are often left out of math and math activities.

Strengths and Challenges

Strongest Features
  • Programs of all types can easily use the curriculum in a way that is appropriate to them.
  • The guide uses real-world situations to show students that math is all around them.
  • It adapts fun games that students already play to math learning.
  • It is accurate and easy to use.
Challenges and Drawbacks
  • Some users might be overwhelmed by the lack of structure, and may want more concrete guidelines and scripted activities.
  • At the other end, if a program is already committed to math enrichment, Math is Cool may be too basic.


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