Printed from Afterschool Curriculum Choice - Math
Location: http://www.sedl.org/afterschool/guide/math/


Curriculum Details for
Math is Cool!


Program
Description
Practitioner Expert
Review
Content Expert
Review
Math is Cool!
Publication Date: 2003
Grade Level: K–8
Content Focus: Math
Costs: $650
The costs shown were accurate at the time of the review. Please check the publisher's web site for current prices.
Developer Contact Information
School’s Out Washington
801 23rd Ave, Suite A
Seattle, WA, 98144
206-323-2396
schoolsoutwashington.org

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Program Description

Design Summary

Math is Cool is specifically designed for afterschool.  The curriculum provides a framework for creating an environment that reinforces school-day math with real world applications. The primary goal of Math is Cool is to help afterschool programs infuse math across all different types of programming, helping children to see the everyday relevance of math. The curriculum takes a student-centered approach, focusing on hands-on learning that shows students how math relates to their own interests.  This helps to make math accessible and enjoyable to people of all learning styles and cultural backgrounds.

Curriculum materials include a program guide containing concepts and methods, and a kit including manipulatives and other materials. The Math is Cool model also provides guidance for creating a math rich environment by linking math to literacy, partnering with parents, school, and community.  Sample letters to send to schools, families, and local businesses to help garner support for the program are included with the curriculum.

Costs and Staff Training

The Curriculum Guide and Kit costs $650, and the guide can also be purchased separately for $29.95.  There are grants offered to local programs to supplement costs.

Training is available but not required and comes at a cost of $1,900 for a 5-hour onsite session. Programs have the option of partnering with each other for a team training at a reduced cost.  A few times per year free trainings are offered in Washington state, where the curriculum is published.

Staff Qualifications

Formal teaching experience is not required to implement Math is Cool.  However, some experience with family and community outreach is helpful.  Content expert reviews support this, also suggesting that instructors need to be confident in their abilities to perform everyday math, and be creative enough to infuse math into their existing program.

Standards Alignment

  • National: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), National Afterschool Association’s Standards for Quality Afterschool Programs
  • State: None specified.

Research Base

None specified.

Evaluation Details

There has been no formal evaluation of Math is Cool.  However, there was an independent evaluation of staff who use the program to examine how their attitudes, knowledge, and confidence changed regarding using math in their afterschool programs.

Overall Strengths/Overall Challenges

Strengths
  • Based on great ideas with great potential.
  • The trainers and representatives from the company are inviting and friendly.
  • Programs of all types can easily use the curriculum in a way that is appropriate for them.
  • The guide uses real-world situations to show students that math is all around them.
  • Adapts fun games that students already play to math learning.
  • It is accurate and easy to use.
Challenges
  • Some users might feel 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.
  • Some may feel that more resources, ideas, and guidance are needed.

Practitioner Expert Review

Practitioner Expert Background

This practitioner has been an afterschool program coordinator for the past eleven years, and started using the Math is Cool kit about three years ago. Her program includes students who are 5-12 years old. She uses it informally on a regular basis to supplement her existing program.  Many of her students are low-income and from Latino backgrounds.

Logistics

1.    Training
  • Training was useful.
  • Training covered general facts about math, not as much how to implement them.
2.    Set-up/preparation
  • Preparation time was minimal, mostly just chose an activity or added materials.
  • Can be used as both a large group activity, with 24 students, or in small groups of four to five students. Activities can be adapted to most any size, but works better in a small group.

Student Engagement

  • Students enjoyed that something new was added into the classroom.
  • Games and activities that introduced the math topics were fun, challenging, and helped them learn.
  • Content was appropriate for the targeted age group.

Content

Adaptability to instructor needs
  • Adaptability depends on how the curriculum is presented; depends on the creativity of the students and instructor to make it adaptable.
  • For example, games and math books are included with the kit, but practitioner has to do own research to take the curriculum further.
General skills taught
  • Could easily be used to teach non-academic skills, such as social skills.
  • Teaches fine motor skills.
Addressing diverse student needs
  • Some games and activities were representative of different cultures.

Strengths and Challenges

Strengths
  • Based on great ideas with great potential.
  • The trainers and representatives from the company were inviting and friendly.
Challenges
  • This practitioner found no major challenges with the curriculum.

Content Expert Review

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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