I’m Trying to Love Math by Bethany Barton is a children’s book about a child who discovers that math is all around and is already part of everything they love. The problem is that so many math curriculums are from a textbook, and although they give real-world problems, the students don’t necessarily see the relevance. In this book, for example, the child says that numbers are boring. As the book continues, this child discovers that math is not just about numbers but “is also about exploring. About finding new ways to get places.”
PNA uses Bridges, a math curriculum that has the students learn new math skills and solve real-world problems with hands-on methods. This allows students to see the purpose of what they are learning and a context for when to use these skills. This also shows students that math IS all around them. They see it in the games they play with their peers, with the information gathered as a class, and in the activities they do at home.
Students have gathered math information about penguins from reading articles. They made their own measuring tape, measured themselves, and then compared their height with the penguin’s height. They have also collected data, like favorite popsicle flavor, from their peers and have helped make a classroom graph with this data to get a visual for the least and most popular flavors. In recent weeks, students walked around the PNA building to gather data for three-dimensional shapes they saw. This helped students see the three-dimensional shapes beyond the picture or shape block. A few students also estimated and then found the actual length of PNA’s hallway.
At home, students have been tasked to do things like tally the number of lightbulbs in each room, build a three-dimensional shape with at-home objects and use their math skills for everyday tasks, like baking. Doing these things at home supports the understanding that math is everywhere!
In Bridges, each math session starts with Number Corner, which teaches students the days and months of the year, patterns, and other monthly skills. This helps students with number sense and extra practice with skills, like money and time, each month.
Next, students are taught their math lesson for the day. This is typically a short session introduced with a review question and then a lesson that gives students new skills through activities or workshops.
Following the lesson and activity, students go to their Workshop. This is typically a partner or individual game that gives the students repeated practice and exposure to their new math skills in a fun way! It allows students to work together, which can help solidify their knowledge or learn their math skills from their peers. Students are not just learning new skills from the teacher but are also getting new tips and tricks from their peers while working on their social skills.
Math at PNA integrates reading, art, and science skills. Students learn the meaning of a number instead of just memorizing the number. Doing this allows them to approach math problems with different methods and lenses than those that learn the basic 5+5=10 from a textbook. It is exciting to see the interest and understanding of math grow, the connections they make, and the fun they have “playing” and learning from one another.