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At Alhambra Elementary School District, students' math skills are kept sharp by raising the bar outside of school hours.
The district's Superintendent Math Achievement Club has students solving math problems at home.
The result, Superintendent Jim Rice says, is an increase in test scores and better mathematics students.
The key is stepping outside the box and making a commitment to fit an academic activity in children's schedules.
And parents in the district who spend nights working on math, like Margaret Voss, say they've seen changes in their students. Her son is a second-grader at Westwood Primary.
"It's turned math into fun and an interactive family project," Voss said. "There are times we use pennies or noodles for counting. It makes them think of math outside of just equations. It has offered them a way to incorporate math into everyday life."
Rice shares what parents can do at home to make math a part of their children's lives.
Question: How and why was the club created?
Answer: It was developed a number of years ago when we were using norm-referenced tests in Arizona. It was noted the test scores for third-graders in math were below the state average. To give teachers another resources to assist their students with math, the club was started in third grade. When teachers began using it with their students, we noticed the math scores began to improve. Since that time, it was implemented in second and fourth grade as well.
Q.: How does the club work?
A.: Currently, we have booklets that go home with the students. The work is done at home. Students and parents work on the booklet and then it is returned to school. Teachers review the book with the students in class. The program begins in October and concludes in April. When students complete the book, there are prizes given to the students. The main purpose is to support the teachers with math problems they are currently teaching in their classroom. The booklet is correlated with district and state standards. It's a good prep tool to help student prepare for the high-stakes assessment.
Q: Since the club is focused on practicing math outside of school hours, how can parents use this model to help their kids over the summer?
A: Whether they are doing reading, writing or math, parents need to set time aside where their children know they will be involved in some type of academic activity. It's about a routine, and the activities can be fun. When I was a teacher and principal, I would say to make sure not to let your children get out of the routine to the point that they will have trouble coming back in the fall.
Q: Why is it important to practice math over the summer?
A: It requires less review for the teachers to give to the child when they come back. It's good reinforcement for the student to practice the concepts they learned.
Q: Where can parents find materials or programs to help their children?
A: There are stores throughout the Valley that sell materials. One of our business partners is School Stuff. They sell workbooks with math and story problems that parents can purchase for their children to use at home. One of the things that parents might want to do is check out some of the junior colleges. Many provide math camps. Parents should check with their local school, many provide enrichments in the areas of mathematics.
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